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Incinerator passes another round of tests

Region says site will be in full compliance by end of the year

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

The Durham York Energy Centre has passed another milestone on its way to returning to full operational status.

Results have come back from compliance testing for dioxins and furans carried out earlier this month, and it has been found that levels are far below the regulatory limit for the potentially dangerous compounds.

According to Health Canada, dioxins and furans are a byproduct of incineration processes, and can accumulate in biological tissues. The federal entity also says that while humans and animals are all exposed to the two compounds, exposure in higher concentrations can lead to serious health problems.

Carried out between Oct. 24 and Nov. 4, the tests found that Boiler No. 1 was emitting 9.44 picograms per cubic metre, while Boiler No. 2 was putting out 6.4.

The contractually obligated limit between the region and Covanta, the site’s operator, is 60.

These tests were done as part of the abatement plan put in place after Boiler No. 1 greatly exceeded its limit for dioxins and furans in May. According to tests done at that time, it was emitting 818 picograms per cubic metre of dioxins and furans.

For Gioseph Annello, the region’s manager of waste planning and technical services, this latest round of tests shows that the incinerator is on track to be the facility it was intended to be.

“The source test with the dioxins that failed really set us back, and it took us a while to go through the investigation so they could figure out what needed to be corrected,” he says.

“They did things like install leak detectors in the bag house, new protocols for cleaning and operating the bag house…so whatever they did seems to have worked and resolved the issue. The numbers demonstrate that the facility is working the way it should be working, which is always good news for us.”

Moving ahead, Annello says he is still awaiting further reports on emissions testing at the incinerator which will then go on to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change. Pending the ministry’s approval of the test results, the abatement plan will be completed. Annello says he believes he will have an answer back by the end of the year.

With the two-year mark for when the incinerator was originally supposed to be in operation – the original deadline was December 2014 – the facility only has a few months of operation under its belt not subject to the abatement plan or one form of testing or another, and went above the original $272.5-million budget, coming in at just short of $300 million. With the facility likely soon to return to regular operations, Annello says that the incinerator will continue to operate in the way that it was designed to.

“It’s running, it’s been running since we restarted the boiler back in August. It’s been running as per the requirements, and it’s been burning wastes and meeting the contractual obligations,” he says.

“The only way (to get trust back) is by continuing with proven operation and continuing with monitoring that indicates compliance with our environmental requirements. That’s the only way of doing it, and that’s what we’re committed to.”

The next stack test is currently scheduled for the spring of 2017, with another coming six months later.

Another milestone passed on the road to full compliance was the recent issuing of the acceptance certificate to the incinerator. When the facility was granted its acceptance test certificate in late January, it was allowed to go into full operation, but had a list of tasks that had to be completed before further funds were released to Covanta. Now that the tasks have been completed, the New Jersey-based operator will receive $12.65 million. Covanta will receive another $12.65 million if it operates the facility as per the contract guidelines for two years.

“These were items that were not quite completed that did not affect the operation of the plant, but still needed to be completed,” Annello says.

“They could still operate, but these were outstanding items.”