The Environmental Resources Authority moved in to seal a site in Żebbuġ where a government contractor was illegally storing bags containing hazardous clinical waste in skips.

Sources said the action was taken in December when the environment watchdog was alerted to the presence of the highly visible yellow bags in a field.

The authority issued a Stop and Compliance Order and related fines, and the illegal practice was stopped, a spokesperson said.

The ERA is investigating a list of infringements that include waste incineration, landfilling of unburnt waste, ash and waste debris and the indirect discharge of pollutants into groundwater within a groundwater safeguard zone.

According to established procedures, the hazardous waste must immediately be taken to the Marsa incinerator as soon as it is collected.

The site lies in Wied San Anton, in Triq Remel on the outskirts of Żebbuġ. The field belongs to WM Environmental Ltd, the contractor responsible for the collection of clinical waste from the St Vincent de Paul home for the elderly, among other sites..

A spokesperson for ERA told Times of Malta when contacted that the authority had taken action over the illegalities on site, including the illegal storage of hazardous waste, electronic equipment and medical waste.

The spokesperson said ERA ordered the contravener to provide a method statement for environmental tests to determine possible contamination and subsequent clean-up.

An independent monitor is supervising both the sampling of waste as well as the site clean-up after the sampling is concluded, the spokesperson said. ERA also alerted the Environmental Health Department and other relevant entities to the matter and the site is being monitored around the clock. CCTV cameras have been installed.

The contractor said he was using the field to sort mixed waste.The contractor said he was using the field to sort mixed waste.

Contrevenor says waste was being stored temporarily

The listed contraveners are Wilson Mifsud, the owner of WM Environmental Ltd, Specialist Group Cleaners Ltd, where Valerio Camilleri is also listed as a director with Mifsud, as well as Mifsud’s Progressive Solutions Ltd. Mifsud’s father, Rocco, is also listed as a party subject to the order.

Wilson Mifsud told Times of Malta that while it was true that the clinical waste was being stored in his field, it was not dumped there but placed temporarily until he received all the necessary documentation to be able to incinerate the waste.

He said the clinical waste found by ERA enforcement officers when they visited his field was incinerated the following day.

Mifsud explained that sometimes the clinical waste was collected late or they did not have in hand all the necessary documentation to incinerate it immediately. On those occasions, which he said were a handful over the last few years, he would place the skips with clini­cal waste in his field until all documents were in order.

He denied ever burning clini­cal waste in the field although he admitted he burnt “agricultural items”.

Regarding the other waste found by ERA in his field, Mifsud explained that he was taking skips there to sort the material disposed of by his clients because WasteServ was issuing fines for skip operators who took mixed waste to the dumping site.

“I was tipping skips in my field to sort out the waste, placing metal, wood, and other items aside. This is the only way we can sort out the contents of the skips,” he said.

A spokesperson for the health ministry said when contacted that it expected contractors and service providers to abide by the existing laws and regulations.

“St Vincent de Paul residence has an existing agreement with WM Environmental Ltd under the framework contract for the provision of waste collection services. This encompasses picking various waste types such as mixed waste, glass, clinical, recyclable and organic swill.

“The contractor is fully accountable for waste collection and its proper disposal at officially licensed waste disposal sites, as stipulated by national legislation. The contractor must comply with any legitimate instructions from the rele­vant authority overseeing landfill management,” the ministry said.

Last year, 5 reported that the cost of the contract for waste disposal at St Vincent de Paul had shot up by a staggering 92 per cent over the original amount.

The contractor blamed the variation on new landfill fees being charged by WasteServ at the Magħtab landfill.

WM Environmental Ltd was receiving not only €197,187 for the collection of waste from the Luqa home until the contract’s expiration but an additional €180,952 – a 92 per cent variation.

In 2019, as part owner of local firm Specialist Group Cleaners Ltd, and in collaboration with Italian company Diemme, Mifsud had won a two-year contract to clean all state schools. The joint venture was called Brightness JV.

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