Materials

Permits revoked after recycling centre fire

Picture credit: Environment Agency

WRSL fire

Following a serious on-site fire, Wood Recycling Services Ltd (WRS) of Potters Crouch, Hertfordshire, has received notices from the Environment Agency (EA) outlining that it will have its two environmental permits revoked.

The fire, which started in November 2012 and was only declared to be out on 8 February 2013, occurred at a WRS’s Appspond Lane wood chipping and waste composting facility.

It is thought that the large quantities of woodchip and recycled wooden pallets that had been allowed to pile up at the site exacerbated the fire and hampered efforts of fire crews to extinguish it.

In light of the fire, the Environment Agency (EA) has served two notices to the company outlining its intent to withdraw the permits that allow WRS to store and compost wood waste on site.

The notices were served to WRSL last week (20 February) and in accordance with the legal requirement of providing 20 working days’ notice, will only come into effect on 22 March (or after a decision on appeal has been reached). 

Permits suspended since September

This is not the first time that WRS has found itself in trouble with the EA and other regulatory bodies. The EA first became concerned about conditions on the site in winter 2011, and states that in early 2012 it decided to take enforcement action along with Hertfordshire County Council, St Albans District Council, Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service and National Grid regarding ‘the excessive volumes of waste on site, and the associated environmental risk’.

This was followed by enforcement notices being issued to WRS in May and July 2012 which ordered the company to reduce the amount of wood stored on site to less than 10,000 tonnes and ensure that it was being stored correctly.

Subsequently, in September 2012 WRS received suspension notices on both of its environmental permits to ‘manage the risk of heat, fire and serious pollution’.

Appeal

As WRS has announced that it will launch an appeal, the revocation notices will not come into effect until the outcome of the appeal is decided. However, WRS’s permits will still be suspended under the September 2012 notice.

This will mean that WRS will no longer be able to accept any further compost or wood waste onto its Potters Crouch site, effectively putting it out of business.

Furthermore, WRS will be required to remove all wood and composting waste from the site.

WRS issued a statement reading: ‘The remains of the fire at our Wood Recycling site in St. Albans were fully extinguished by 8 February and all remaining fire water has been successfully removed to licenced processing outlets. Wood Recycling Services Limited are waiting for approval of our proposals to the Environment Agency for the removal of the residual material from the fire. Once approvals have been received, we will remove it from site.

‘Whilst these actions are taking place WRS will continue to liaise with the Environment Agency, review the suspension notices and remedy the site to meet compliance. WRS fully intends to appeal the Environment Agency notices to revoke our environmental permits.’

The EA said: ‘We understand that WRS will not be able to clear the site within a matter of days, but they will be required to do so within deadlines stipulated by the notices. The notices will include steps to manage any environmental risk until the site is cleared.’

Read more about the Potters Crouch fire.