Studies on the environmental impacts of waste-to-energy plants
For many years, activities related to the incineration of waste have been the subject of many studies and monitoring, as well as of important technical improvements also related to the introduction of increasingly stringent plant and management criteria by European and Italian legislation. The technology has reached very high performance in terms of reducing emissions and environmental impact.
As a result of the changes of the legislation, there has been a 98% reduction in waste incineration emissions if we consider the total annual atmospheric emissions of dioxins as the sum of all waste incineration in Italy between 1990 and 2013 (Source: Sinanet-Ispra-SNAP databanks).
Placing this analysis in the context of the various production segments, since 2001 waste incineration has been the least representative source in terms of emissions of dioxins and furans, contrary to the iron industry, the steel industry and the entire residential segment (e.g. domestic heating).
The trend in terms of total annual PM10 emissions shows a significant decrease of around 55% in waste incineration emissions (between 1990 and 2011), also due to the evolution of legislation. The PM10 emissions by Italy’s incinerators are around three magnitudes lower than those of the residential segment. The main sources of PM10 at national level are the residential segment, vehicular traffic, combustion processes with contact (e.g. foundries) and animal rearing.
Environmental supervision and air quality monitoring projects
According to the Authorizations regarding the waste-to-energy plants in Ferrara, Modena, Forlì and Rimini, the Hera Group must carry out studies on the potential impact that its plants have on the surrounding environment.
In 2008, in accordance with the provisions of the Integrated Environmental Authorization of the Rimini incinerator, the air quality was monitored by ARPAE (pre-operational monitoring). This study was designed to determine the quality of the air in the areas around the incinerator, potentially affected by the plant’s emissions. In 2013, with the new line 4 fully functional, the monitoring process was repeated in the same way in order to assess any differences or impacts on air quality that could be attributed to the new plant (post-construction monitoring). The monitoring results have been prepared by the regional agency for prevention and environment of Rimini in 2014 and have been made available in 2015. The study shows that there is no significant impact on air quality, post-construction vs. pre-construction.
In the industrial area in which the Forlì plant is located, Hera has installed an air quality monitoring station, run by ARPAE Forlì. This station has been operational since 2009, and provides a continuous stream of data that are validated by ARPAE and published on their website. Periodical campaigns are also carried out at the station to search for micropollutants and metals in the particulate matter. The results show that there is no substantial difference between a public area and the area around the plant, indicating the presence of a uniform environment, influenced significantly by the town rather than the presence/contribution of the plant. These results were confirmed in 2017, when ARPAE Forlì made available the data of the air and soil quality monitoring of the previous year.
For over a decade, environmental monitoring tests have been carried out at the Modena plant on several environmental compartments: air and soil quality, biomonitoring, total depositions. Since 2013, the monitoring network has been operated by the local ARPA (now ARPAE), which carries out all the analyses required by the waste-to-energy plant’s IEA. In addition, in Modena in accordance with the IEA, a health monitoring study was carried out in 2003 to assess health risks for the population that lives near the incinerator and the workers at industrial sites near it. Two reproduction indicators are analysed: teratogenic risk, i.e. congenital malformations, and spontaneous abortion risk. The program ended in 2014 with the processing of the data collected in 2013 and showed no dose-response relationships between exposure and relative risk of miscarriage and birth defects.
Between 2010 and 2012, a genuine environmental and health monitoring protocol was carried out at the Ferrara waste-to-energy plant. Its details were defined by ARPA (now ARPAE), AUSL and the Province of Ferrara and it examined a number of environmental compartments. The scientific coordination for these studies was entrusted to institutions with proven experience in the sector (CNR and Universities).
The results of the first study, which ended in October 2012, confirmed the preliminary evaluations made when the Integrated Environmental Authorization was granted and showed that the plant’s contribution, in terms of air quality, cannot be distinguished from the environmental background levels. In the light of the results that have been obtained, a subset of the monitoring has been extended for a second period (2013-2015), that only studies the aspects that are considered most significant: air quality and studies of soil pollutants. Air quality monitoring activities ended in early 2015, confirming the results of the two previous years. In particular, the study of the soil, repeated in the autumn of 2013, showed no accumulation of metals and micropollutants in the areas surrounding the plant, thereby confirming that the incinerator’s emissions cannot be distinguished from the baseline of the environment. In 2015, the guidelines to carry out monitoring in coming years were also agreed with regulators. In particular, in 2016, we signed a convention to continue the three-year soil monitoring project with ARPAE.
The Padua waste-to-energy plant, in line with the requirements of the “Memorandum of understanding on the assessment of the health impact in the city of Padua and in its metropolitan area” signed by the municipalities of Padua and Noventa Padovana, with Arpav, ULSS 16 of Padua, and the University of Padua was the subject of an study that was completed in December 2015, with the presentation of the “Report on the pilot project of population health monitoring assisted by ASL 16 of Padua, particularly on potential health effects from air pollution – a longitudinal study in Padua (SLPD)”. The conclusions showed on one hand insufficient statistical evidence to identify statistical effects on people’s health related to the plant’s emissions, on the other the differential of the concentration estimates (with three decimal digits precision) is not compatible with measurable health effects, i.e. the effect of PM10 emissions from the waste-to-energy plant on the background pollution levels.
The same system is the subject of the Voluntary agreement to monitor the effects of the San Lazzaro waste-to-energy plant near Padua, which lasts three years. HestAmbiente and Arpav have carried out some environmental studies in addition to those required by the legislation in force and by the authorizations.
In greater detail, we managed the operation of two of HestAmbiente’s fixed air quality monitoring stations (to monitor SO2, CO, O3, NOx, PM10 e PM2,5 with automatic equipment and publish on Arpav’s website a page dedicated to waste-to-energy plant data, validated by Arpav itself). An annual air quality monitoring campaign was carried out using a mobile lab provided to Arpav by HestAmbiente. We sampled the soil at 5 sites near the waste-to-energy plant, and performed laboratory analyses on it for the metals: Pb, As, Cd, Ni, and Hg, for aromatic polycyclic hydrocarbons, dioxins, furans and PCBs and we measured the sound pressure levels around the plant. All the surveys summarized above highlighted negligible environmental impacts of the plant. HestAmbiente has already expressed its willingness to sign a three-year extension of the agreement that will soon expire, and to continue its activities even while awaiting the formalization of the new agreement.
Transparency of waste-to-energy plant emissions
Since 2008, the Group’s website has provided the previous day’s average emission values and “half-hourly averages” of the Group’s waste-to-energy plants (every half hour the online data are updated with the average value recorded over the past 30 minutes). The data are automatically sent by the detection systems, operational on a 24/7 basis in all the Group’s plants, located in the provinces of Bologna, Ferrara, Forlì-Cesena, Modena, Ravenna, Rimini and Isernia.
As a further guarantee of transparency, Hera commits to:
- daily or weekly reporting of the half-hour and daily averages to the control agency (Arpa);
- yearly reporting on the plant’s operations, by 30 April every year, to the competent authorities (Provinces) and control agency (Arpa);
- if the plant is EMAS registered, the control results are published upon formalization of the “Environmental Declaration”;
- publishing annual data compared to legally established limits and regulatory limits in the Group’s Sustainability Report.
Since 2015 the website also provides the data of Padua and Trieste, in the same format (half hour average updated in real time).
Lastly, from 2018 on, average annual data on periodic self-checks on metals and organic micropollutants will also be available for all plants.
Increasing usage of telepresence
A further increase in terms of sessions and hours of use of the Hera Group’s telepresence rooms is confirmed for 2017, for the same selection of rooms. Telepresence is increasingly proving to be a facilitating tool to manage meetings, saving time, risk and fatigue, also allowing considerable energy savings and, last but not least, helping to reduce Hera Group’s ecological footprint. At Group level there was an increase, compared to 2016, in fact their use increased, reaching a total use of approximately 24,000 hours in the entire Group. On a like-for-like basis, the usage increased by 3.6%, rising from 9292 sessions in 2016 to 9630 hours in 2017.
Excavation land reuse for beaches in Rimini
The Hera Group is responsible for recovering sand to sustain the beaches of Rimini’s coastline, as part of the progress of the plan for seawater protection plan (PSBO), the largest sewer decontamination project in Italy.
In total it will be possible to recover 25 thousand m3 of sand, 8 thousand of which have already been deposited mainly on the beaches in the northern part of Rimini and in those between the southern part of the provincial capital and Riccione, as envisaged by Arpa and by the River Basin Technical Service.
The PSBO was built by Hera and the Municipality of Rimini, together with Romagna Acque and Amir, and consists of 11 measures on sewerage pipes and treatment systems, 5 of which have already been completed. Taken as a whole, this is essential to upgrading and upgrading existing installations and networks, while at the same time ensuring the sustainability of a water service which, on the coast, now has to cope with 16 million visitor nights every year. Through the PSBO, Hera therefore continues to create so-called “shared value”, generating benefits for the environment, local communities and their economies.
The works will lead to the construction of a water storage tank by summer 2018, which will improve water safety and bathing quality. In addition to these benefits, there is also the complete renovation of urban spaces to promote the promenade and sustainment of the beaches, which will result in an important operation of soil recovery and coastal conservation. All this is made possible by an accurate geological survey, with which Hera thoroughly studied the characteristics of the material excavated on site, processing so as to obtain the highest possible levels of quantity and quality of sand.
The site will therefore be able to exploit all the stages of its process, in the priority interest of the area, the protection of its natural resources and the quality of the tourist offer in the area.
Renovation of the viale Berti Pichat area in Bologna
In May 2017, work was completed on the new management building at the Hera SpA headquarters, which allowed staff to be transferred from the SACEP office building and other buildings in the same area (for approximately 360 people) and the canteen and bars to be used.
Following the completion of the building and the relocations, it was possible to demolish the old structures used previously, leading to the environmental remediation and functional redevelopment of the entire sector according to the indications of the variant to the urban renewal agreement for the area signed on 3 May 2016 and the new operational renovation project authorized by the Municipality of Bologna with deed dated 13 April 2016.
The operational reclamation project is enabling the environmental remediation of the area consistently with timing set out in the planning agreement, simultaneously ensuring the accessibility and the usability of the entire sector. In particular, in 2017, the worksites for reclamation of the site’s groundwater were completed and, in addition, reclamation measures were completed in most of the areas north of the sector, by excavating and removing the historical landfill and contaminated soil, as well as, where envisaged, by ISCO treatment of soil and groundwater. For each phase of reclamation, ARPAE verified compliance with the reclamation objectives set by the project with reference to the work carried out and, as a result of these checks, it was possible to start the urban planning works for the construction of green areas, new roads and new internal parking lots.
In early 2018, reclamation work began on the areas currently designated as car parks, which will be largely upgraded to green areas for use by Company personnel. The completion of these last areas, expected for the end of 2018, will represent the completion of the requalification of the entire area of Viale Berti Pichat (about 70,000 m2 of total surface area).
Monitoring of air and water compartments for the site, over the entire area continued, with the frequency agreed with the regulators. At the same time, in addition to the analyses currently performed by companies at the job-sites, the Quality, Safety and Environment Department continued monitoring, focusing on the impacts that the job-sites could have on the health of workers at the corporate office.
The environmental remediation of the site will continue, by functional phases until completion, expected by 2018, of all the other activities on the entire sector, and the cost will be borne fully by Hera even if it is not the party responsible for polluting the area.
In 2017, 4 meetings were held with Health and Safety Representatives (RLS) to report and agree both the progress, the scheduling of the work, and the monitoring results.
Hera has always worked in full and complete respect of the law, for the protection of workers and residents, and under the control of the supervisory bodies.
In December 2017, the renovation works on the 1st and 2nd floors of the building located at the corner of Viale Berti Pichat and Via Ranzani were completed, which Herambiente personnel to be transferred from the headquarters in Via Trattati Comunitari (Bologna). The building’s redevelopment has included upgrading its systems with renovation of its façades to accommodate Herambiente’s commercial and reception structures. The works on the ground floor, the external renovation work and the construction of a new dedicated reception area will be integrated in the completion of all the external upgrade of the area, which will be completed by December 2018.
Remaining on the subject of our office buildings and other properties of the Group, in 2017 we continued a major plan to replace and decontaminate asbestos roofs of buildings located in all the areas we served. At the end of 2017, approximately 20 thousand m2 of asbestos roofs were removed, equal to 70% of the total amount (100% of those on office buildings). The renovation measures are expected to end in 2018.