A PIONEERING Scottish waste incinerator is on the brink of bankruptcy and closure, casting doubt on the future of similar plants proposed around the country.
Scotgen, which has been trying to commission a controversial new energy-from-waste plant in Dumfries since 2009, has told the Court of Session in Edinburgh it intends to go into administration.
The development comes as the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) is reviewing the plant's authorisation to operate, following hundreds of pollution breaches, an explosion and a major fire. Since February, Sepa has placed three legal notices on Scotgen to clean up its operations.
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The most recent last month ordered the company to remove partially burned waste from the site left after the fire last month so it didn't stink or attract flies and rats. According to Sepa, Scotgen has so far failed to comply and its plant is not currently operating.
"Sepa is assessing Scotgen's overall performance with complying with the conditions of the permit," said Ian Conroy, Sepa's technical support manager in the south-west. "We are considering the further action that is necessary to be taken with regards to recent events and the historical performance of the facility."
Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said the Dumfries plant now "looks doomed". This was "bad news" for up to a dozen similar plants planned across Scotland, he said.
"No community in Scotland can have confidence that any other company can do what Scotgen has repeatedly failed to do," he said. "The failure of the Scotgen plant shows us we should give up plans to burn waste and work much harder on recycling and avoiding waste in the first place."
Other waste incinerators have been proposed in Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, Lothian, Perth, Aberdeenshire and Invergordon. Last week, the Scottish Government rejected plans by Grundon Waste Management for an energy-from-waste plant in Perth.
Scotgen had planned a second plant at Dovesdale Farm near Stonehouse in South Lanarkshire, but withdrew it last year. John Young from the Dovesdale Action Group urged Sepa to close the Dumfries plant "before the public begins to lose faith in them to protect us and the environment".
Scotgen may be hoping it can find a company willing to take it over, with Waste To Energy Canada (WTEC) from Vancouver spoken of as the favourite. But WTEC was cautious when asked to comment. The Dumfries plant was "in a state of transition", according to the WTEC's chief executive, Rod Taylor. "WTEC has had significant interest in the plant in the past and we continue to monitor the plant's operation," he said
"What the end results of the current situation will be remains entirely unclear at this point. Sepa is reviewing the plant and its decisions will ultimately have an enormous bearing on what happens with the plant."
The Viridor (from the Latin "to become green") company, which is investing £500 million in waste infrastructure across Scotland, insisted energy-from-waste plants were essential to realise the Scottish Government's policy of "zero waste". The company is building two major facilities in Glasgow and at Dunbar in East Lothian, using different technology from that in Dumfries.
"Scotland needs confidence that next generation recycling and waste infrastructure is operating to the highest national and international standards, with robust action from regulators for non-compliance," said Viridor's external affairs manager, Martin Grey.
Scotgen refused to comment. The Court of Session confirmed it had lodged a notice of intent to go into administration.