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 to regulations and technologies, there has been a 99% decrease in emissions from waste incineration in Italy between 1990 and 2016, if we consider the total annual atmospheric emissions of dioxins as the sum of all waste incineration throughout Italy for the whole tertiary sector (Source: Sinanet-Ispra-SNAP databank).
Placing this analysis in the context of the various production segments, since 2001 waste incineration has been the least representative source in terms of dioxins and furans emissions, 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 80% in waste incineration emissions (between 1990 and 2016), also due to regulatory and technical changes. 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 agriculture.
Environmental supervision and air quality monitoring projects
According to the Authorizations regarding the waste-to-energy plants in Ferrara, Modena, Forlì, Rimini, Padua and Isernia, 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 Authorisation of the Rimini incinerator, the level of air quality was monitored by ARPAE (pre-construction monitoring). This study was designed to determine the air quality in the areas around the incinerator, potentially affected by the plant’s emissions. In 2013, with the new line 4 fully operational, 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 the Protection of the Environment (ARPA) of Rimini in 2014 and 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 a station for monitoring air quality that is 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 previous year’s air and soil quality monitoring data.
For over a decade, environmental monitoring tests have been carried out at the Modena plant on various 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 were 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 was extended for a second period (2013-2015), to examine only the aspects 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 environment baseline. In 2015, the monitoring guidelines for coming years were also agreed with regulators. In particular, in 2016, we signed a convention with ARPAE to continue the three-year soil monitoring project. In 2018, environmental monitoring continued with three air quality monitoring campaigns (spring, summer and autumn).
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 more detail, we managed the operation of two of HestAmbiente’s fixed air quality monitoring stations (to monitor SO2, CO, O3, NOx, PM10 and 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.
In the area surrounding the Isernia waste-to-energy plant, in agreement with ARPA Molise, a series of representative monitoring points have been identified at which studies on atmospheric depositions and PM2.5 atmospheric particulate sampling have been carried out in the 2017-2018 two-year period. At all monitoring points, the annual average PM2.5 was below the regulatory limit, and the deposition study showed values for organic micropollutants (dioxins, PAHs) always below the instrumental detection limits.
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 of the past 30 minutes). The data are automatically transmitted by the detection systems, operational 24/7 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 regulatory limits and authorized limits, in the Group’s Sustainability Report.
Since 2015 the website also provides the data of the Padua and Trieste plants, 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 has also been available for all plants.
Increasing usage of telepresence
Telepresence is increasingly proving to be a facilitator to manage meetings, saving time, reducing risk and fatigue, significantly saving energy and, last but not least, helping to reduce the Group’s ecological footprint.
In 2018, 95 offices were connected by telepresence (+35% compared to the previous year), for a total of 23,874 meetings (+19%) and about 30,785 hours of use (+24%).
The further increase in terms of both of sessions and of hours of use of Hera Group’s telepresence rooms is due to an increase of the perimeter of the rooms, as well as to a more marked use of the clients installed on the company’s PCs.
Urban and environmental renovation of the viale Berti Pichat area in Bologna
In December 2018, the environmental and functional requalification works of the Holding Company’s Bologna office in Viale Carlo Berti Pichat (about 70,000 m2 of total surface area) were completed, per the urban requalification agreement for the area signed on 3 May 2016 and the operational project for environmental remediation authorized by the Municipality of Bologna on 13 April 2016.
The environmental reclamation of the area has been carried out by excavating and removing the historical landfill and contaminated soil and, where applicable, by treating the soil and groundwater with ISCO methods. For all the phases of soil reclamation, ARPAE verified compliance with the 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. During the works, monitoring of the air and water environmental media for the site continued over the entire area, 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 had on the health of workers at the corporate office.
The environmental remediation of groundwater with ozone and ISCO will continue until reaching effectiveness up until June 2019 and December 2019, respectively, although Hera is not responsible for the pollution of the area.
In 2018, two meetings were held (on 19 April and 25 July) with workers’ Safety Representatives (WSR) to report and share 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 2018 we completed the major plan to replace asbestos roofs of buildings throughout our service area. Starting in 2016, more than 28 thousand m2 of roof were replaced.
As part of this work, three underground tanks of different capacities no longer in use were also removed. The monitoring activities of the work completed in the area of the holding company’s headquarters in Bologna will continue until the first half of 2022.
The new LED lighting of the entire external area of the holding company’s headquarters was also installed, also involving the architectural lighting of the gasometer located inside the historic “Gas Workshop”. Concerning the new lighting of the company’s offices, in 2018 a multi-year plan was launched to replace the external lighting fixtures of all the group’s main offices with LED fixtures. In particular, in addition to the Bologna office, the replacement of external LED lighting in the Modena office in Via Razzaboni and in the Ravenna office in Via Romea was also completed. In addition, projects started at the offices of: Bologna in Via del Frullo-Cristina Campo, Rimini in Via Terrapieno-Strada Consolare and Cesena in Via Spinelli where work is scheduled for 2019.
The new contract for the supply and installation of MFD equipment was launched as part of the internal equipment of the offices, in line with the CAM criteria defined by the Ministry, to achieve sustainability, energy efficiency and lower emissions of inkjet machines compared to laser printers, with obvious benefits both in terms of reduced consumption and lower emissions of particulate.