Limerick East): I propose to take Questions Nos. 240 to 244, inclusive, 246 and 278 to 282, inclusive, together
The clinical waste disposal system which is currently being operated by the waste management contractor to the Southern Health Board is being used at various locations outside Ireland, including sites in Scotland, England and the United States. This contractor was employed following public tendering procedures, and the contract was awarded in May 1996. The contractor uses somewhat different technology from that previously used. There were teething problems with the commissioning of the new equipment and as a result there was a backlog of waste requiring treatment. This backlog has now been substantially cleared. I understand that the technology has been subjected to rigorous approval procedures.
The Southern Health Board and the Eastern Health Board are employing contractors who use a shredding and decontamination method of treatment of clinical waste. The other health boards are using contractors who export the waste for treatment in the United Kingdom.
The detailed information sought in relation to permits, quantities of waste being stored by health boards, contingency plans, etc., is not available in my Department.
The tendering process for the transportation, treatment and disposal of clinical waste involves a joint approach to the market with the Northern Ireland Department of Health. It is based on the assumption of centralised treatment in order to maximise quality and minimise cost. A short list of tenderers is at present being prepared. A total of 41 requests for tender application forms were received; 23 completed forms were returned and the number selected to tender will be between five and eight, as stated in the advertisement in the Official Journal of the European Communities. Tenders are due in by mid-November and it is expected that a contractor will be selected by the end of the year.