Siteserv permit suspended as ‘major’ fire continues to burn

Siteserv Recycling has had its environmental permit suspended by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) after a ‘major’ fire that started at the company’s site in Llandow, South Wales, on Thursday evening continued to burn into this week.

Siteserv permit suspended as ‘major’ fire continues to burn
Around 2,000 tonnes of household, commercial and industrial waste stored in a hangar on the site are feeding the fire, one of four large waste blazes to have started in the past week.

The company and South Wales Fire & Rescue Service (SWFRS) are working with NRW and Public Health Wales to limit the impact of the fire, which is still burning this morning (7 March). Three crews remained at the site on Monday, though the fire service has the fire under control and has reduced its presence during night hours.

The fire is the third to occur at Siteserv’s Llandow base in the past four years. In 2013 two fires broke out in separate buildings within a matter of weeks of each other, one of which, started on Bonfire Night, contained an estimated 1,000 tonnes of mixed household waste.

Siteserv is based in South Wales, but also has a presence in the North West of England, operating six subsidiaries. The company offers commercial and domestic waste collection and reprocesses waste, plastic and wood.

In a statement the company said: ‘Whilst we are unsure of the source of the fire, we are working with both the fire service and police to establish possible causes. In the meantime, the management team has implemented contingency plans and we are operating ‘business as usual’.’

NRW has now served Siteserv with a suspension notice that will prevent more waste being added to the current volume stored on the site until the waste already there has been managed. The agency says that this move will ‘ensure all residual risks to the environment and human health are reduced as far as practicable’.

Nadia De Longhi, Operations Manager for NRW, said: “We have decided to suspend the importation of waste under the environmental permit for the regulated facility at Hangars A and B, off the Llanwit Major Road, Llandow, operated by SiteServ Recycling (SW) Ltd.

“While our main focus at the moment is working closely with South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, Public Health Wales and Vale of Glamorgan Council to manage the effects of the blaze, we have taken this emergency measure to minimise further risks of serious pollution.”

Low threat to public, but local residents should be wary of smoke

Public Health Wales says that while smoke produced by waste fires may contain irritant gases, combustion products and particulate matter, evidence from similar fires suggests that staying indoors and avoiding the plume of smoke itself should ensure that the risk to the local public is low.

The SWFRS is updating local residents on its Twitter regarding the changing winds and which areas should be most wary of the smoke, advising that they keep their doors and window closed.

Andrew Kibble of the Public Health Wales Environmental Public Health Team advised: “If people experience any symptoms these will disappear very quickly once the smoke has passed and should not result in any long-term health problems. There is also no evidence that this fire involves asbestos either in the waste materials or building itself.”

The Vale of Glamorgan Council has also advised drivers travelling on the nearby B4270 to take care as smoke from the fire is often being blown across the carriageway by strong winds.

The nearby Llandow Caravan Park has had to vacate its premises due to the ongoing fire and smoke.

Spate of waste fires in past week

The Siteserv fire is one of four large fires to have started at waste sites in under a week.

Last Wednesday (1 March), 30 firefighters and five crews were needed to bring a ‘severe’ fire that started in one of paper packaging supplier and recycler DS Smith’s recycling depots in Willenhall near Wolverhampton on Wednesday (1 March) morning, causing operations to be suspended on site.

The same day, Exeter-based commercial waste firm Devon Contract Waste suffered a ‘devastating’ fire at its Envirohub site in Marsh Barton, where a blaze caused two-thirds of the roof of the building, which houses a materials recovery facility and the company’s headquarters, to collapse. Over 100 firefighters had to work to prevent the fire from spreading to nearby businesses, including Exeter City Council’s waste depot.

On Sunday, 3,000 Glasgow homes lost power for most of the afternoon and evening after a fire at a vehicle scrapyard in the Govan district of the city. Piles of tyres and scrap vehicles at Japanese Auto Parts were ablaze, effecting a Scottish Power substation next door.

Waste fires are a problem that have been the focus of investigation by the Chief Fire Officers’ Association (CFOA) for the past year, as the industry and firefighting services seek to find greater evidence as to how fires comprising of waste materials can best be prevented and fought.

According to the CFOA, there have been around 250 incidents of waste fires per year for the last decade, with an estimated cost to fire and rescue services of around £16 million a year.

More information is available in a comment piece written by Mark Andrews, Waste Fires Lead, at the Chief Fire Officers’ Association, for Resource suggesting how the waste industry can reduce its fire risk.

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