The Environment Agency (EA) has defended its actions in the wake of a major recycling site fire in Kidderminster, after local campaigners said the agency was ‘underprepared’.
A report by campaigners called for an overhaul of waste storage regulation and claimed that action taken by the Environment Agency (EA) and fire services to deal with the Lawrence Recyling plant fire last year was inadequate.
An EA spokesperson told MRW: “On 16 June 2013 we were alerted to a fire at the Lawrence Recycling Ltd site in Kidderminster. Our staff attended the site that evening to help minimise the impacts to the local environment and support the management of the fire.
“Our incident room was open for nine days to manage our contribution to the multi-agency response. We supported Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service and advised them on how to reduce the pollution risk to the water environment.
“Within the first few hours of the incident we set up an Air Quality Cell with our partners, which monitored the air quality around the area. This data was provided to Public Health England for them to be able to offer health advice to the emergency services and the public. Our staff monitored and managed the local water quality in the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal and moved 300 fish to healthier water.”
The EA said site operators Lawrence Recycling Ltd were put into administration last year. The site - ‘The Forge’ - was sold to PWM Estates Ltd and environmental permits were transferred to the new owner.
The spokesperson said: “Immediately after the fire broke out the EA served Lawrence Recycling Ltd with a partial suspension notice which prevented them from depositing any new waste at The Forge. This suspension remains in place with the new owners. No additional waste has entered the site since June 2013.
“PWM Estates Ltd is clearing the waste and fire damaged material that remains on the site. We are ensuring that this work is completed without impacting the local environment. The EA is also leading the investigation into the causes and circumstances that resulted in the fire.”
According to the EA the number of fires at waste sites regulated by the agency has not increased over the past four years. Of the 12,250 waste sites with an EA permit, there were 21 ‘serious’ waste fires.
Environment Agency statement:
“We recognise that waste fires can cause serious pollution and impact on the local community, businesses and the environment, which is why there are robust rules in place to ensure that all waste sites take appropriate steps to minimise the risk of fire.
“We are proactive in reminding operators of these responsibilities and do not hesitate to take action if their working practices do not follow the strict requirements of their permits.
“In the most severe cases we issue notices to suspend activity at the site, prosecute the operator or revoke the permit.
“We continue to work with the Fire and Rescue Service and industry to ensure that standards for fire prevention reflect current best practice.”