Performance and process issues have dogged the plant near Basildon since it entered its testing phase in 2015

crop of ecomonics water pipe

Waste PFI has got dirty once again, with Essex County Council and its contractor Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) heading for court over “performance and process issues”.

The dispute centres on the mechanical biological treatment (MBT) plant near Basildon, which was constructed in 2014 and entered its commissioning period later that year.

Councillor Simon Walsh, Essex County Council cabinet member for environment and waste said: “During the ongoing commissioning period at the Basildon MBT plant, Essex County Council has been aware that our operators UBB were experiencing plant performance and process issues. We have worked closely with them to attempt to resolve these.

“Both parties have been using the appropriate contractual mechanisms to resolve these issues. The next stage in this process, where there has been no final determination of the issues, is for matters to be considered by the court and we are in the preliminary stages of this next step.

“Because of the confidential nature of the contract and the status of discussions, we cannot discuss these matters publicly, and it would of course be wrong for us to do so. Our contractor is bound by exactly the same constraints. It is important to note that the Basildon MBT is operating, and diverting considerable waste from landfill.”

UBB said it had nothing to add to Essex County Council’s statement.

The contractor was selected as preferred bidder for the 28-year PPP contract in 2012, which has an estimated value of £800m over its lifetime. The joint venture is a 70:30 split between waste management specialist Urbaser and Balfour Beatty, with the latter investing £7m to construct the MBT facility. From 2015 onwards, Urbaser was due to manage the plant, which was intended to process 417,000 tonnes of municipal waste a year.

Meanwhile, Essex County Council has begun procuring a new waste framework to ensure it meets its waste disposal obligations.

Councillor Walsh said: “The purpose of the procurement of new framework agreements for the disposal of waste is to ensure contingency waste disposal arrangements are in place. This is to ensure that Essex County Council is able to meet its ongoing statutory obligations as Waste Disposal Authority in coming years, ensuring value for money for taxpayers.

“This procurement also aims to secure new disposal arrangements for refuse-derived fuel, which is an output from the Basildon MBT.”