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Air quality fears after another fire hits Kent waste site

Air monitoring to take place at former Waste4Fuel site in Orpington in Kent as another fire breaks out yesterday (January 8)

Traffic restrictions were put in place in St Paul’s Cray, Kent, last night (January 8) due to high levels of smoke from another fire at the former Waste4Fuel site affecting visibility.

The latest blaze at the site comes as the Environment Agency plans to begin carrying out air quality monitoring in the area due to repeated fires at the former waste facility garnering complaints from local residents.

Photo of one of the fires at the former Waste4Fuel site last year, which has been plagued by fires for over 12 months

Photo of one of the fires at the former Waste4Fuel site last year, which has been plagued by fires for over 12 months

However, in addition, the Agency said it was working with Public Health England and the London Fire Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) to “determine whether any air quality monitoring is required specifically for this fire”.

London Fire Brigade (LFB) was called to the Orpington site at 8pm yesterday where a spokesman said a fire had mainly affected machinery as well as a “small amount” waste at the unoccupied site.

The A20 road was also closed at nearby Crittalls Corner in both directions due to smoke from the fire affecting visibility, according to Transport for London.

The blaze was under control at 10.43pm yesterday, LFB said, after four fire engines and 21 firefighters from Eltham, Sidcup, Orpington and Bexley fire stations attended the incident.

However, firefighters remained at the scene this morning damping down the remaining hot spots.

A notice to residents from the Environment Agency today explains that last night’s fire started in the redundant machinery on the Northern boundary of the site and is “currently being investigated”, with Agency officers monitoring “any potential environmental impact from the fire water run-off on the adjacent Ruxley Lakes”.

The letter adds that the Agency is working with Public Health England and the London Fire and LFEPA to “determine whether any air quality monitoring is required specifically for this fire”.

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: “We were made aware of a fire at the Waste4Fuel site on the evening of 8 January and our officers attended the site to provide support and advice to London Fire Brigade to manage any environmental impact. We will continue to support London Fire Brigade and will provide updates to the local community accordingly.”

It is the latest in a number of fires at the Cornwall Drive facility, which was closed off by the Environment Agency after being abandoned last summer by previous operator Waste4Fuel (see letsrecycle.com story).

The site had been used to store waste such as tyres, plastics, cardboard, metals and paper for processing into refuse derived fuel (RDF).

Waste4Fuel

Waste4Fuel had faced regular enforcement action from the Environment Agency due to thousands of tonnes of waste building up at the site over the last few years, with some waste piled higher than two-story houses in an adjacent estate. Two schools are also situated next to the site.

A nearby resident told letsrecycle.com today (January 9) that the site has been “smouldering for months” and that the smoke and smell was not just impacting on residents, but also on the two nearby schools.

The Agency told residents in October that it was reviewing ongoing smouldering in the North-West corner of the site, which it said was “unlikely” to be extinguished in the short term.

And, it is to begin further monitoring air quality at the site this month, with the results analysed by Public Health England and shared with the local community in “a few months” once monitoring is complete.

However, the Agency letter to residents today states that last night’s fire was in a “separate area” to “ongoing smouldering in the North West corner” which the LFEPA “had under control from their daily visits”.

Waste4Fuel is now insolvent, with Shelley Hurst leaving her post as director of the firm on October 14 2014 – just eight months after previous director Bryan Hughes left the company.

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Martin Winlow
Martin Winlow
6 years ago

I wonder how much money the directors made out of collecting all that waste before they walked away from their responsibility to actually deal with it…?