Extra Oslo Buses for flush hour
Published: 23 Feb 2009
Until recently raw sewage has been seen as a waste disposal problem rather than a power source, but Norway's capital city is proving that its citizens can contribute to the city's green credentials without even realising it. In Oslo, air pollution from public and private transport has increased by approximately 10% since 2000, contributing to more than 50% of total carbon dioxide emissions in the city.
With Norway's ambitious target of being carbon neutral by 2050, Oslo City Council began investigating alternatives to fossil fuel-powered public transport. They decided on biomethane, which is a by-product of treated sewage. Microbes break down the raw material and release the gas, which can then be used in slightly modified engines. Previously, at one of the sewage plants in the city half the gas was flared off, emitting 17 tonnes of carbon dioxide. From September 2009, this gas will be trapped and converted into biomethane to run 200 of the city's public buses.
The city's diesel public buses will only require minor modifications to their engines to run on methane, which is stored on tanks on top of the vehicles. The only noticeable difference will be how quietly they drive. The net emissions from a biomethane operated bus are zero, because the carbon originally came from the atmosphere rather than fossil fuels, but electricity is used at the sewage plant to convert the gas from the waste into fuel.
Oslo City Council is taking the electricity used to generate the fuel into consideration and calculate that carbon emissions per bus are 18 tonnes per year, a saving of 44 tonnes of carbon dioxide per bus per year. The city's two sewage plants have enough biomethane to provide fuel for 80 buses, but if the trial is successful there are plans to convert all 400 public buses to run on biogas.
Published: 23 Feb 2009
The EU has presented proposals for an international agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which expires in 2012. The bloc is calling for an increase in global investment to 175 billion euro per year by 2020, more than half of which must be spent in developing countries. The communication is made ahead of UN climate talks which will take place in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December.
The draft document urges rich nations to step up public funding to help developing countries cut their greenhouse gases and prepare for the negative impact of climate change. However, it has been stressed that the paper is likely to be heavily revised before final approval. Two options are proposed to increase public funding, based on the "polluter pays" principle. The first would require developed nations to pay a set price for every tonne of carbon dioxide emitted, whilst the second would set aside a percentage of emissions traded for the fund.
In addition, the EU executive will also urge developed countries to increase emission reduction commitments, opting for a binding agreement which would also include all OECD member countries and all present and future EU Member States. It is recommended that all developing countries, except for the poorest ones, should commit to adopting low-carbon development strategies by the end of 2011. These should cover all key emitting industries, especially the power and transport sectors.
A new "Facilitative Mechanism for Mitigation Support" will be set up to ensure action is matched by financial and technical backup. This will provide a platform for bilateral and multilateral support schemes and it is hoped the Copenhagen agreement will link these schemes together with carbon emission trading schemes across the world to create a global carbon market.
Fall firm fined
Published: 26 Jan 2009
A construction firm has been ordered to pay a total of £90,000 after an employee fell while working on the Liverpool ONE development. William Taylor was working in one of the new apartment blocks at the city centre complex when he fell more than three metres onto a concrete slab in August 2007. He suffered a fractured skull, broken ribs and a spinal injury.
Laing O'Rourke Construction pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the safety of employees, at Liverpool Crown Court. Judge Nigel Gilmour, QC said, it had been a, "Significant but uncharacteristic lapse by the company and the risk of falling from an unguarded slab was not substantial but it was a real risk." The court heard Mr Taylor had recovered from his injuries and still works for the company.
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Principal Inspector Nic Rigby said, "This prosecution should act as a warning to all those involved in the management of construction work. It was down to chance alone that this incident did not result in a fatality. That risk would have been avoided had the planning and management of the work being carried out not been so deficient."
He added, "The accident occurred because the company failed to make adequate risk assessments and plan a safe system of work. This accident happened on the third floor of the building. Had the accident not occurred, this same system of work would have been repeated on every one of the 12 floors of the building. A fall from that height would clearly have had much more serious consequences."
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Agency puts the Bootle in
Published: 26 Jan 2009
The UK's largest waste management company, Veolia Environmental Services (UK) Ltd, has this month been ordered to pay £166,000 in fines and costs following an incident at its hazardous waste treatment facility in Bootle. A toxic fumes release on 27 April, 2006, led to four members of staff having to receive medical treatment and several members of the public reporting side effects.
Veolia pleaded guilty to eight charges which were brought against it in a joint prosecution by the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Since the incident, the firm has completed a full review of its procedures and introduced safeguards to ensure a similar incident never occurs again.
On the date in question, the Bootle site was found to have breached a number of the conditions of its waste management licence, including accepting waste which it was not permitted to hold and then storing it with another chemical substance. A resulting reaction led to toxic fumes being released, which affected both members of staff at the facility and the public. The Agency said the situation was made worse because the company's emergency plans were not followed, were inadequate and hindered the emergency services.
Commenting on the case, Mark Easedale of the Agency said, "This incident highlights the importance of ensuring correct procedures are followed to make sure there is no harm to the environment when hazardous waste is being handled. This was a serious incident which could easily have been avoided." A Veolia spokesperson responded, "We regret our involvement in this case, which is an isolated incident. We have co-operated fully with the HSE and the Agency throughout their investigations and have put in place new procedures to help prevent this type of incident being repeated in the future."
Ride-on time's up!
Published: 26 Jan 2009
Health and safety considerations mean workers are no longer allowed to use steps on the backs of moving lorries. For years the sight of bin men riding on the back of refuse trucks, a practice which sped up house-to-house collections, was common across Northern Ireland. However the obvious risks of a worker falling from a vehicle means the practice has been banned.
Commenting on the ban, a Moyle Council report said, "A letter has been received from the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSE NI) recommending that all councils consider the removal of steps at the rear of council bin lorries. It has been decided that for health and safety reasons all steps will be removed from our lorries."
The scheme came into force on 12 January 2009 and Moyle Council official Aidan McPeake said the HSE NI made the move in response to several accidents across the country in recent years as a result of the "ride-on" practice. Mr McPeake said, "When they give that type of advice we have to take action." He went on to say, the cabs of the bin lorries have room for the driver and two operatives.
Councillors however have heard the new practices could impact on the amount of time taken to empty bins. Councillor Cathal Newcombe said, "We have budgeted for an amount of time and we will have to monitor it to see. We have moved the lorries to low-entry cabs but it is true with the rural routes, it will have a knock-on effect on timing."
Will scaffold defence stand up in court?
Published: 26 Jan 2009
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is prosecuting three companies and one individual following its investigation into a fatal scaffolding collapse, at the McAteer & Rushe site in Milton Keynes, in April 2006.
McAteer & Rushe, Lee Smith Carpentry, NNM Scaffolding and its director John David King are all facing prosecution over alleged breaches of Health and Safety law.
John Robinson, a worker on the site, was killed when an independent tied perimeter scaffold collapsed. Two others, Mark Robinson and Ivan Peukov, suffered multiple injuries. In January 2008, the inquest Coroner recorded a narrative verdict confirming that Mr Robinson's death arose from injuries sustained as a result of the collapse. The HSE investigation centred on scaffold design, how the scaffold was braced, tied and inspected, and how it was loaded with materials. In 2006, the HSE issued a safety alert warning those working on similar projects about the importance of their arrangements to provide and maintain stable scaffolds.
McAteer & Rushe are being prosecuted as both an employer and as the principal contractor for the construction project at the site, and face a total of six charges. Lee Smith Carpentry face five charges, and is being charged as the employer of John Robinson and Mark Robinson. NNM Scaffolding also face five charges, with its director King facing four charges.
All parties will appear before Milton Keynes Magistrates' Court on 13 February 2009.