The Environment Agency (EA) has responded to criticisms over the way it has handled a mountain of waste towering over homes at Orpington in Kent.
Contractors are now removing around one-fifth of the material stored at the Waste4Fuel site after the agency was frustrated in legal attempts to force the owners to do so.
A resident that lives yards from the site had told MRW that the EA should have acted sooner to stop Waste4Fuel accepting new material when it was over its permitted limit and clled for the entire 15,000-tonne mound to be cleared. The points have been raised by neighbours to the local paper.
The EA responded in a statement to MRW, including an explanation of why Waste4Fuel was allowed to add to the mountain of refuse: “We have used all of our powers to make the operator comply with their environmental permit (EP) but they have repeatedly failed to do so. This includes going to the High Court for an order to clear all combustible waste from the site.
“The company successfully argued that they needed to bring in additional waste to fund the clearance of waste. However, the incoming quantities should have been smaller than the outgoing quantities but they were not and the pile continued to grow. At this point we were unable to take further action as the case was in the High Court’s hands.”
The agency also maintained that clearance of the site was Waste4Fuel’s responsibility. MRW has previously reported that the site has been abandoned by its owners who have not made themselves available for comment and their website has been taken down.
“We have no obligation to clear the site,” the statement said. “Whilst the EP is valid, Waste4Fuel Limited are responsible for clearing waste on the site down to the permitted level.
“However, in the meantime we are doing what is needed to improve safe access for London Fire Brigade (LFB) and reduce the immediate risk of a significant fire. Since 7 August we have removed approximately 1,000 tonnes of material.”
The process to remove around 2,000 tonnes of waste is expected to be finished in mid-September but the EA warned of increased levels of smoke and steam as contractors dig deeper into the pile.
“We appreciate the frustration of local people and would like to reassure them that we are exploring every option available for the future use of the site and are working closely with our partners, including LFB and the London Borough of Bromley, to help us do this.
“We are considering our next course of action, but as this relates to an ongoing investigation, we are unable to share information about this.”