West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service’s community safety committee is due to hold talks over the potential environmental damage caused by the growing number of serious fires at waste recycling sites in Leeds.
Since July last year there have been major blazes at locations in Beeston, Armley and Sherburn in Elmet in the West Yorkshire remit alone, not taking into account the recent spate of fires up and down the country.
Assistant chief fire officer Dave Walton said the waste fires, as well as the firefighting operations as a result, had a serious impact on the environment.
The large amounts of water applied in an attempt to extinguish the fire can have the consequential effect of producing large amounts of contaminated fire water run-off, which can pollute local water courses.
Environment Agency – “When responding to such incidents, the Environment Agency aims to assess the possible risks and ensure that action is taken to prevent or limit the damage that the fire may have on the environment”
“Conversely a policy of controlled burning can have an air quality impact and produces a source of annoyance and inconvenience for nearby residents and businesses, which can last for some considerable time given the deep seated nature of such fires in massive quantities of waste,” Walton added.
The largest fire at a waste site in West Yorkshire in recent years broke out at HW Martin in Beeston on July 31 last year. Twelve fire engines were involved in battling the blaze at its height.
Six engines dealt with a similar incident at Yorkshire Plastic Recycling in Armley on New Year’s Day. Most recently, 15,000 tyres went up in flames at Newgen Recycling in Sherburn on January 16.
A spokesman for the Environment Agency (EA) said: “Fires at recycling and waste sites can potentially have a significant impact on the local environment and nearby communities.
“When responding to such incidents, the Environment Agency aims to assess the possible risks and ensure that action is taken to prevent or limit the damage that the fire may have on the environment.
“For example, we check the site’s proximity to watercourses and surface water drains, and work with water companies to find out what possible impact there could be on drinking water supplies.
“Any liquids used to put out the fire can run-off the site, causing pollution, so we also work with the fire service to consider the most appropriate way of dealing with the fire itself.”
The EA issued a Technical Note in November on how to reduce waste site fire risks in response to the mounting number of fires seen at waste and recycling sites over the past year.
The EA guidance on Reducing fire risk at sites storing combustible materials applies to sites storing more than 50 cubic metres of solid combustible material at any one time, in the absence of a relevant sector fire code of practice or an accident plan agreed with local Fire and Rescue Services.
The Note was compiled in conjunction with the Chief Fire Officers Association and applies to all combustible materials including; paper or cardboard, plastics, rubber, natural or synthetic, wood, fragmentiser waste, rags and refuse derived fuel (RDF) and solid derived fuel (SRF).
The guidance states that waste sites can help prevent fires by keeping sources of ignition at least six metres away from stacks of combustible material, and by introducing a regular maintenance and inspection programme.
The guidance describes how to:
- assess the risks posed from fires involving combustible materials in stacks and piles
- identify sites where this guidance should be applied
- identify the measures that should be included in your accident plan and implemented at all times to reduce the risk of fire and fire spread
- produce an accident plan which you can share with your local Fire and Rescue Service (FRS)
- store combustible waste with appropriate stack sizes and separation distance
- determine appropriate fire fighting strategies and ways to minimise impacts of a fire on people, property and the environment.
The Note, however, does not apply to landfill sites or to the storage of compost, animal manures and bedding, flammable materials, combustible liquids or dangerous substances stored under the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations.
For the EA Technical Note CLICK HERE