Plans for a £15m food scraps recycling plant is another example of a south Cardiff community getting “a raw deal”, according to a local councillor.
Kelda Organic Energy has submitted plans for an “anaerobic digester” on land next to the Welsh Water sewage treatment works, at the junction of Rover Way and Tide Fields Road in Tremorfa.
The firm is one of four companies bidding for a 20-year council contract to recycle 35,000 tonnes of food waste collected from across Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan.
Cardiff council’s household food scraps are currently sent 50 miles away to be processed by an “in vessel composting” plant in Sharpness, Gloucestershire. The council says its Cardiff Organic Waste Treatment Project contract will meet Welsh Government recycling targets.
Anaerobic digestion (AD) uses bacteria to break down food leftovers to produce a “biogas” of methane and carbon dioxide, which is used to generate renewable electricity.
The planning application comes just three months after a waste incinerator being built in one mile away in Splott was awarded a 25-year contract to burn black bag rubbish collected from across the region.
The Viridor incinerator at Trident Park, off Ocean Way, was given the go-ahead despite strong local opposition.
Splott and Tremorfa’s Labour councillor Gretta Marshall said: “I’m worried about another facility going in Splott and Tremorfa that is perhaps going to cause smells and traffic in the area.
“Splott and Tremorfa is getting a raw deal again – everything seems to be put here. It’s not going to create that many jobs, but lots more traffic.”
Ward colleague Luke Holland said he was disappointed at the way Kelda consulted local councillors and residents, which included three public drop-in sessions in March.
“I am extremely concerned that the first port of call for when you want to build a development that nobody else wants is to put them in Splott and Tremorfa,” Coun Holland said.
“If Kelda can demonstrate that there will be positives for the area and, unlike Viridor, they are willing to invest in the local community, then that is a conversation I would be willing to have. However, the early signs have not heartened me.”
Coun Holland said he shared similar concerns he held over the incinerator project – that the road network wasn’t suitable the infrastructure not in place.
“This is not an industrial site. This is a community with homes and schools where people live. Just because one development was allowed it should not open the floodgates for others.”
According to Kelda’s bid documents, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) found “the development is appropriate for its location in impact terms, and will not have adverse effect on residential amenity, the operation of the local highway network or visual amenity”.
An odour assessment predicted smells would be “unlikely to cause an odour nuisance to the nearest commercial and residential properties”. Kelda’s commercial manager Thomas Hall said the AD process would be “odourless” as the food would be broken down in large enclosed tanks.
“The area that it has been located has been carefully chosen. It’s already in a heavily industrialised area, next to the steelworks, scrap metal yard and sewage works,” he said.
“Food waste itself is an inherently smelly product, but the process has been designed to keep the odour inside the process. The odour contains methane and that is how we produce our gas and electricity that will be supplied to Welsh Water.”
Mr Hall said the plant would only treat the food waste collected by Cardiff and the Vale councils. If Kelda is not awarded the contract, it’s proposal won’t go ahead.
“Cardiff’s food waste is currently being collected and taken to Lamby Way where it is then shipped over to Gloucestershire, so this is a local solution creating local jobs for the waste that is created in Cardiff,” Mr Hall added.
About 50 jobs will be created during construction and there will around 13 staff in the long-term, including truck drivers. There will be an average 21 HGV movements a day to the site each way, according to the planning documents which states the extra traffic “will not have a detrimental effect on the local highway network”.
The electricity generated from anaerobic digestion will be used to power the facility. Any remaining energy will be supplied to Welsh Water’s neighbouring plant. “It will mean Welsh Water’s largest works will become largely self-sufficient,” Mr Hall added.
The process will also generate a high nutrient fertiliser and soil conditioner, most likely to be used by farms in the Vale of Glamorgan.
The Cardiff Organic Waste Treatment Project contract will be awarded in early 2014. If successful, Kelda says it will start construction in the middle of next year and start operating in early 2016.
The other shortlisted bidders are Agrivert Limited, GENeco and Shanks Waste Management Ltd. The council has also suggested bidders consider another site at Lamby Way, next to the landfill tip.
A council spokesman said: “Planning applications for any proposal are separate to the procurement process, and as such we are not able to comment on any specific planning application.
“We have received four competitive bids that are being evaluated on all aspects including environmental impacts and controls as part of the final selection stages, this assessment is completely separate to the planning procedures, but will assure the council that any facility within the city or elsewhere complies with all regulations.”