Palumbo appeals enforcement against ‘illegal landfill’

Palumbo shipyard has appealed against an enforcement order issued by the Planning Authority in July following a two-year investigation by it into the alleged dumping of hazardous waste under a concrete platform erected in 2012 at the shipyard in Cospicua

Palumbo was slapped with an enforcement order for dumping waste under a concrete platform
Palumbo was slapped with an enforcement order for dumping waste under a concrete platform

Palumbo shipyard has appealed against an enforcement order issued by the Planning Authority in July following a two-year investigation by it into the alleged dumping of hazardous waste under a concrete platform erected in 2012 at the shipyard in Cospicua. The first sitting of the appeal is scheduled for 1 September.

The enforcement order was issued against the creation of a “landfill” without the necessary permits and the dumping of waste under the concrete platform in violation of the law. Palumbo was also reprimanded for not taking any action to transport the waste for authorized treatment. 

The Environment Protection Act expressly bans unauthorised landfills while two legal notices issued in 2002 and 2011 oblige owners to deposit in authorised deposits any waste created by their activities.

The enforcement order was issued in July, 21 months after enforcement officers collected samples from the site and after MaltaToday had revealed that an investigation to determine whether a layer of concrete had illegally covered hazardous waste at the Palumbo shipyards in 2012 had been concluded.

In June, Environment and Resources Authority chairman Victor Axiak told MaltaToday that the ERA was in discussion with the Planning Authority “to determine the most appropriate actions to be taken following the investigations”.Palumbo has always insisted that the concrete bed had been laid on wasteland and any waste deposited there had been placed there before the company took over the yard.  It also claims to have cleaned the area before the concrete platform was laid.In September 2014 the authority said in a statement it had started investigating the Palumbo site after it received a tip off that quantities of grit blasting material were buried in the concrete foundations. 

From initial investigations it results that grit-blasting waste, which is generated by Palumbo’s operations, had been used in the foundations of the yard and was buried under the concrete flooring. 

In December 2014, three months after the investigation commenced, a Planning Authority spokesperson told MaltaToday that it had received a laboratory report on the material collected from the site.   

Until July 2015 investigations were still ongoing. “The authority is carrying out its investigations using professional specialists and laboratory services”, the spokesperson said. 

MaltaToday is informed that the major issue is to determine whether the waste was deposited in 2012, when the area from where the samples were taken was cemented, or before Palumbo took over operations. But even if it transpires that the waste was deposited before Palumbo took over, it may still be held legally responsible for burying the waste under the concrete platform, sources told MaltaToday.

Palumbo Shipyards has denied it ever buried grit-blasting waste instead of exporting it, and said its appeal against the Planning Authority’s enforcement notice would prove this.

“Palumbo Shipyards has never disposed as much as one kilogram of grit blasting in Malta since it started operations and we have adhered to strict environmental regulations on its disposal,” a shipyard spokesman said.

“We are convinced justice will prevail and show we have committed no wrongdoing,” the spokesman added.

The company says that when Palumbo took over the shipyards in 2010, it had found a patch of dilapidated land that had been used for grit blasting for decades but was now earmarked to be used for superyachts. To level the rough terrain for specialised equipment, Palumbo Shipyards had to cement the area, cleaning it thoroughly before doing so.

“If it transpires that there were remnants of grit blasting, this was deposited there before Palumbo took over the shipyards,” the spokesperson said. “At no point in time did the company try to go behind authorities’ backs to cement this area and it had documented all the upgrades and works it had carried out it an annual report it sent to Mimcol.”

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