Waste management firm Grundon has criticised the latest fire guidance from the Environment Agency (EA) for being inflexible.
Deputy chairman Neil Grundon said his company has held back on “millions of pounds worth of investments” due to the guidance, which he says “lacks common sense”.
He joins others in the industry in criticising the third version of the Fire Prevention Plan (FPP) guidance since it was published in July, with tyre and wood recyclers previously taking aim at the prescriptive maximum stack sizes and four-hour burn time.
Grundon’s focus, however, is on the amount of water supply the guidance requires a site operator to have access to.
The guidance states that, for a 300cu m pile of waste, 2,000 litres of water per minute should be available for a minimum of three hours.
Writing in a blog, Grundon says this would be equivalent to a 25m x 10m swimming pool with an average depth of 1.5m.
“Does the EA really think that operators have access to such a huge quantity of water or that the water companies will be happy to give us that capacity on tap?” he says.
At RWM, EA senior advisers James Finch and John McCarthy moved to reassure operators that enforcement of the guidelines will not be too rigid and some exemptions would be allowed.
But Grundon says he suspects the process of applying for exemptions “will be lengthy and somewhat convoluted”.
“Given, however, that there are 19 measures in place, operators will have go to the nth degree to cover all possible scenarios, and no doubt try to negotiate our way through the many layers of hard-pressed Government decision-makers at the same time,” he says.
“Would it not be easier to identify the nearest body of water and provide the necessary length of hose, while at the same time fitting early detection and first response systems?
“At Grundon, we are currently sitting on our hands while this guidance pans out, holding back on millions of pounds worth of investments, and we are just a small part of the wider industry.”
The EA has defended its decision to ignore industry opposition to its guidance on stack sizes and maximum burn times last month, which the majority of respondents to its consultation disagreed with.
It said measures such as stack sizes were designed to prevent self-combustion, which it said many investigations into waste fire cited as the likely cause.
A cost-benefit analysis of the FPP guidance is expected to be published by the EA this year.