Polidano Brothers has been storing waste containing ash from the Marsa power station at its Lapsi quarry without the necessary permit, The Sunday Times of Malta has learnt.

The pile of waste stored in an open environment is a mix of coal ash and other materials used as infill at the Marsa power station, according to Mepa.

The authority initiated an investigation after this newspaper reported the problem two weeks ago.

Mepa said it immediately commissioned an independent study to determine the waste’s contents. It confirmed the company did not have a permit to store such waste in this manner and said it was conducting further studies to determine its best use.

The authority has not requested its removal from site, saying it was classified as “non-hazardous” waste.

Siggiewi mayor Karol Aquilina said he was “shocked” Mepa took no action to remove the waste. “This is unacceptable. What the company did was illegal. This is not the first time Polidano Brothers has done such a thing in our locality,” he said.

In 2010, this newspaper revealed that Polidano Brothers had for years stored fly ash from the Marsa power station at its Siggiewi quarry without the necessary permit.

“The local council has been demanding that the quarry is closed and rehabilitated.

That quarry is an environmental concern and an eyesore.

The government has a responsibility to ensure waste is disposed of legally

“The government has a responsibility to ensure waste generated from public entities is disposed of legally,” Dr Aquilina said. Polidano Brothers’ lawyer Jean Paul Sammut said tests on the material had not yet been concluded. He said the material was not being used, but only stored temporarily until Mepa decided on its best use.

Mepa only became aware of the waste from the report filed two weeks ago.

Yet the waste has been there since October when Polidano Brothers was commissioned to demolish rooms at the old power station, according to the company’s lawyer.

Dr Sammut was pressed to explain how the company intended to leave the waste there when it had no permit for storage.

He said: “Mepa is aware it’s there. Keep in mind this waste was being emitted at the Marsa power station, surrounded by residential areas. Now it’s concentrated in one area”.

In fact, the ash was stored. This was confirmed by an independent expert. Now it is exposed, rather than indoors, and this seems to be the main issue in terms of potential health hazards.

A respiratory physician said any health hazards involved would depend on the proportion of ash contained. “The proportions are unknown. It could be potentially dangerous, especially if there’s wind in the direction of residential areas.

“Any kind of particulate matter can be irritative to people who have respiratory conditions. It doesn’t mean it can cause cancer but it will cause people to cough,” he said.

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