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Gas and spills at the incinerator

Report details carbon monoxide exceedances, ash and liquid spills at site

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

Last year saw the incinerator breach its carbon monoxide limit five times, have four separate spills and turn around a load because of radiation.

These details and more were included in the annual report for the Durham York Energy Centre, recently released by the region and posted on the incinerator’s website.

According to the report, the carbon monoxide (CO) exceedances started on Oct. 5, with the incinerator putting out 103.1 mg per cubic metre in a one-hour testing period. According to the environmental agreement between the region and Covanta, the facility’s operator, the limit for carbon monoxide is 40 mg per cubic metre in a four-hour period.

There was another spike two weeks later on Oct. 19, when the average came in at 41 mg per cubic metre.

The last two spikes came in December, with two breaches on Dec. 16 – 51 mg and 49 mg – and one on Dec 30 of 56 mg per cubic metre.

Currently, there is no penalty for these exceedances. Under the operational contract, pumping out too much carbon monoxide will not be considered a compliance issue – which would bring with it an official report to and subsequent investigation by the province – until October.

Gioseph Anello, the region’s manager of waste planning and technical services, tells The Oshawa Express that there are systems in place at the incinerator to combat growing levels of CO, but that there are challenges when the plant registers a high spike in levels.

“As it starts going up, (operators) have some action they can take with natural gas, introducing air, to make sure the (carbon monoxide) stays down,” he says.

“The problem is that when they have a spike, something very hot happens and the CO goes up high. Then it’s hard to recover from that. We’re trying to deal with that now.”

According to the report, there were also four separate spills at the incinerator, including approximately 500 lites of reverse osmosis reject water – leftover fluid after water has been filtered – on Feb. 5, 2015, seven kilos of dry cement on July 17, approximately 1,400 litres of water and fly ash on July 30 and 100 litres of turbine demister lube oil on Dec. 5.

Anello says these spills were all addressed to ensure similar events would not happen again, including installing cameras in parts of the facility to monitor and prevent potential spills from spreading.

The incinerator also received one load – the report does not specify when – that did not past muster when it came to radiation.

Anello tells The Oshawa Express that these loads are not allowed inside of the facility, and will either be kept off site until the radiation has dissipated or, in cases where the numbers are higher, be taken to a different site for disposal.