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News • January 18 2004

Call for Ghallis to be accepted instead of temple landfills

MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando and Ing Marco Cremona, a hydrologist, made a strong case for the temple landfill proposal to be scrapped and suggested only a permanent landfill be established at Ghallis.
Pullicino Orlando and Cremona also called on MEPA not to accept the EIA reports as presented and said the consultants that had a conflict of interest.
Pullicino Orlando strongly protested that the time frame for the EIA reports was too short, and suggested that SLR, the consulting company which is also to be engaged in the planning stage as well as to monitor the landfill, could not be relied upon to prepare a fair report.
Pullicino Orlando pointed out that SLR is suggesting that gases emanating from the landfill after capping should be disposed by flaming. He said the flaming produced acidic gases which can "very easily damage the outer surface," of the Mnajdra and Hagar Qim temples. Pullicino Orlando asked: "Are we prepared to face the possibility of seeing our heritage literally crumble before our eyes?"
Referring to the seasonal studies in the EIA it was noted that these reports have given a new definition to the name of multi-seasonal studies with wet and dry seasons contemplated over 3 months.
Ing. Cremona, who is a technical consultant for Friends of the Earth (Malta), pointed out that there was no basis for having an interim landfill.
Cremona showed by reference to facts and figures how, contrary to what has been claimed by SLR and WasteServ, the Ghallis first cell can be prepared in a few months. Cremona also said the six-day study to select the interim landfill sites was flawed. He said that if the EIA reports are to be believed and the lining is so fail-safe, the site for the interim landfill, should Malta need one, could have included other sites.
Cremona pointed out that the studies presented to civil society were incomplete. The study "omits to address a number of matters listed in the Terms of Reference…no hydrological tests were carried out at the site at all, no benthic survey of the marine environment was undertaken and no modelling of the transport of pollutants in groundwater was carried out."

Alternatives to temple sites not studied
Despite popular opposition to the choice of Malta’s interim waste landfill sites the government has not lifted a finger to seriously consider alternatives, MaltaToday has learned.
Instead of siting the waste landfills 300 metres from the Mnajdra temples the government could have considered keeping Maghtab open until the permanent landfill is ready to accept waste, or chosen an operational quarry to receive Malta’s mixed waste.
Opponents to the landfill sites were hoping that the draft EIA for the landfill would consider other options and were led to believe so because in the EIA’s terms of reference it was stated that: "The Project Description Statement (PDS) commissioned by the developer needs to be audited. This audit - including sieve analysis and matrix information - should establish whether the conclusions contained in the PDS are acceptable and whether the two quarries are the preferred option."
While the study that chose the sites next to the temples was prepared in six days, it was expected that the EIA would look more closely at alternatives.
In the chapter on ‘Need and Alternatives’ there is no attempt to weigh up the different alternatives. Indeed when referring to Maghtab the report includes only conclusions and there is nothing to either back up the statements or any reference to any public document. There is not even the slightest attempt to compare the impacts of keeping Maghtab operational, or choosing another quarry with filling the ‘temple’ quarries.
The reasons for not keeping Maghtab open are as follows: "the landfill is uncontained, allowing gas and leachate to escape in an uncontrolled manner; the landfill has reached is maximum areal extent; further filling on the top of the landfill would significantly increase the visual impact of the landfill; there is combustion underway in parts of the landfill; uncontained landfilling does not comply with EU requirements for landfill.
Unlike many other parts of the draft EIA, these statements are left standing on their own, there is no scientific analysis or reference to data to back up the statements.
While Malta faces a problem of complying with the landfill directive by May 1, whatever happens in the next months, no landfill can be made ready in the intervening period.
The idea of using operational quarries was dismissed without any attempt to study or justify the conclusion: "Whilst active quarries can provide potential locations for landfills, providing that they are sufficiently large to accommodate both operations simultaneously, there is a clear potential for conflict between the two uses which could hinder or delay the establishment of a landfill."
The idea that the operational quarry be closed so as to accommodate the landfill was not even mentioned in the EIA.
While Heritage Malta has said it opposes filling the quarries close to Mnajdra with mixed waste, but would agree that the landfills be filled with inert waste, that option was dismissed by the experts who reported: "Whilst this may form part of a future package for reclamation and enhancement of the area, there are no current proposals for such infilling other than the current development proposal."
It is government’s plan to fill the lined quarries with mixed household and industrial non toxic waste, but an element of toxicity in the waste will always be present.
The waste dumped at the temple site will be similar the same as is being dumped at Magtab.
Even before the studies started, the consultants were not approved as they should have been. "The socio-economic expert was not approved when the EIA process started and now one was brought in through the back door. The socio-economic study is not acceptable," FoE campaigner Martin Galea de Giovanni said.

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