Fire at AmeyCespa’s Waterbeach site


Dozens of firefighters from Cottenham and Cambridge were called to a fire that broke out at AmeyCespa’s mechanical biological treatment (MBT) facility in Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire at 6:55am on Easter Sunday (31 March).

Reports suggest the fire broke out in a 200m x 30m steel framed building containing 800 tonnes of organic waste. Smoke was reportedly seen billowing across the A10 and crews requested attendance from police to help control traffic congestion.

According to Cambridgeshire Fire Manager, Mick Jackman, the fire was initially “difficult to locate because it was inside the building and smoke was issuing from various parts of it”.

Due to this, the crew used thermal imaging cameras to locate “hotspots” and identified the fire as being in “a corner of the building near the road”.

Jackman explained that due to the thick smoke, firefighters could not initially go into the building and as such, attempts were made to ‘air the building’. 

Two firefighters wearing breathing apparatus pumped water onto the smouldering heap from over a concrete wall to try and reduce the temperature and allow crews to go in and extinguish the heap internally.

Crews are still pumping water into the building to dampen the huge pile of waste and could stay on site for ‘a number of days’. Site owners will also be supplying special fans to ventilate the smoke within the building.

According to Jackman early indications are that “self-heating combustion” caused the compost heap to start burning however a full fire investigation will be carried out after it has been extinguished.

At this stage is not known when the heap started smouldering.

In a statement Paul Greenwell, Managing Director at AmeyCespa, said: “We can confirm there has been a fire at our Waterbeach MBT facility and that there are no injuries.

“The fire service is still in attendance and at this stage we are unable to comment on the extent of the damage.

“We will begin a thorough investigation as to the cause as soon as possible.

“Our internal team is working closely with the Fire Service to understand the impact and the next steps.”

Fire latest set back for MBT facility

The fire is the latest of unfortunate incidents to occur at the MBT facilty, after the plant broke down on the 18 September 2012 and was said to be ‘unlikely’ to be back in working order again before December 2013.

AmeyCespa announced on 21 March that ‘good progress’ was being made to bring the MBT plant to ‘full working order’, and stop Cambridgeshire’s residual waste from going to landfill.

According to AmeyCespa new compost machinery is currently being manufactured and was planned to replace the previous equipment that failed.

It is unknown whether the MBT has been further affected by the fire as the building is not yet safe to enter.

The MBT plant, which processed around 112,00 tonnes of Cambridgeshire’s black bag waste a year before breaking down, was a key element of AmeyCespa’s 28 year PFI contract with Cambridgeshire County Council to provide a processing solution for the county’s waste.

AmeyCespa’s material recycling facility (MRF) at Waterbeach, which was opened in February this year, was also part of this contract.