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EA sets out smaller stack sizes in fire safety plan

The Environment Agency (EA) has proposed reduced combustible waste pile limits in a shake up of fire safety regulations.

The agency is reviewing its fire prevention plan (FPP) guidance issued in March. Proposals in a consultation document suggest changing separation distances and pile sizes, both contentious issues within the industry, for a range of materials.

Tests (pictured) are also being carried out until February to provide empirical evidence for determining safe storage practice. The EA said guidance would be kept under review in the light of the conclusions of the tests.

The Wood Recyclers Association (WRA) recently said that a number of its members had confirmed that maximum stack sizes of 167 tonnes for unprocessed wood and 33 tonnes for processed, along with separation distances required by the FPP, are commercially unworkable.

Hadfield Wood Recyclers announced in July that it had stopped accepting materials at its Manchester and Middlesbrough sites to avoid enforcement action from the EA relating to its FPP guidance. This week it lifted the embargo.

Tyre Recovery Association (TRA) secretary general Peter Taylor has expressed similar concerns but said no recyclers in his industry had stopped accepting materials.

Now the EA is proposing to reduce the separation distance for WEEE from 15m to 6m, and to remove the additional separation of 20m required for multiples of 16 piles of all waste types.

The standard separation distance between adjacent waste piles and buildings or compressed or flammable gas remains unchanged at 6m.

However, it does suggest that separation distances may be able to be reduced if there are suitable firewalls in place.

Maximum acceptable pile heights for unprocessed wood have been reduced from 10m to 5m and the maximum pile volume to 750cu m in the consultation document.

For processed wood the limits are stricter at 3m maximum pile height and 150cu m maximum volume.

The document reads: “The reduced pile sizes for processed wood (a material more susceptible to self-combustion) enables more rapid heat loss from the piles and encourages wood to be stored on-site in its largest (unprocessed) form.

“Reducing the maximum height of the pile of unprocessed wood from 10m to 5m allows for the use of standard machinery to safely move waste during an incident. It also allows standard 2-3m probes to be used to monitor the core of the pile for signs of self-heating.”

It also suggests changes to site plans, storage in a building, general actions to minimise fire risk and clarifying what are acceptable deviations from the minimum standards.

The consultation will run until 4 March.

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