After a fire last month shuttered the Pockwood Pond incinerator, officials said it would take about two to four months for workers to complete the repairs and turn the plant back on. Now, they say it will be at least six months before the incinerator is running again. (File Photo: PROVIDED)

Shortly after a fire caused extensive damage to the Pockwood Pond incinerator on Feb. 14, Health and Social Development Minister Carvin Malone said the facility would likely be offline for two to four months.

Now the Department of Waste Management has upped that estimate considerably.

A Monday press release stated that the plant will be closed for at least six more months until “repairs and equipment replacements can be made.”

The Feb. 14 fire, which was likely caused by an improperly discarded propane tank, damaged control and wiring panels and a conveyor belt, among other parts, Mr. Malone said on Feb. 22.

While the ministry was debating stop-gap solutions such as issuing “quick bid” tenders for mobile incinerators to be placed on Tortola and Virgin Gorda, Mr. Malone called on residents to recycle and divert flammable materials from the waste stream as workers tried to repair the plant.

In the Monday press release, officials didn’t provide any update on the mobile incinerators, but they again called on residents to use the territory’s recycling services.

“The public is being asked to rinse and separate plastic, glass and aluminum household waste and utilise the territory’s ‘We Recycle’ programme,” said DWM Manager Neville Allen.

“By diverting your glass, plastic and aluminum containers, wecan divert at least 30 percent of what goes to Pockwood Pond.”

The release also stated that the incinerator was taken offline Feb. 6 due to an operational failure, though it did not specify if the issue had been fixed by the time of the fire on Feb. 14.

No update on repairs

The press release did not provide an update on the repairs or explain the delay, and attempts to reach Messrs. Malone and Allen for comment were not successful.

This is not the first time the incinerator has caught fire in recent years, prompting waste officials to haul trash to the landfill behind the incinerator, where blazes have also burned.

A fire in November 2018 left the incinerator inoperable for over a year.

Even after a new control panel was installed in January 2020 and the incinerator resumed operations, the facility continued to suffer failures that left it shuttered for weeks at a time. Starting in March 2021, for instance, the plant shut down for about six weeks because of a faulty hydraulic pump, during which time residents complained about fires and smoke frequently rising from the landfill behind it.

It also has been operating without a pollution-control scrubber, even though in 2015 the previous government paid a $500,000 down payment for one to the Virginia-based Consutech Systems LLC, which manufactured the incinerator.