Fire at Lawrence Recycling & Waste Management,
Update 27th August
Further air quality test results show no significant
The agencies dealing with the fire at Lawrence’s
Recycling have now received the written interpretation and advice
from Public Health England on the results of the further air
monitoring tests that were undertaken during
The report concludes with a statement from
Public Health England experts stating:
“Overall, we consider that in this fire,
concentrations of dioxins, furans, PCBs and PAHs monitored were
high but that public exposure for the duration of the fire is
unlikely to have resulted in a significant risk to public
Dr David Kirrage, PHE West Midlands Health
Protection Team director, went on to explain:
“This is because the estimated exposures were
considered to make a small contribution to body burden (the long
term effect on the human body) for dioxins, furans and PCBs which
accumulates over many years and from a variety of sources in the
WFDC also arranged for independent monitoring
of air quality at four locations in the vicinity of the fire from
July 2-26. This measured levels of nitrogen dioxide, sulphur
dioxide, benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene isomers.
In summary, the monitoring showed no exceedances of local air
quality management regulations laid out by Defra or of criteria
covering health, workplace safety and air quality levels of ethyl
benzene, xylene or toluene. Based on all these results, no further
action was required.
Full results of the reports mentioned
above are below.
PHE interpretation and advice resulting from TRL report.
TRL report to monitor ambient Dioxin, Furan, PCB and PAH
concentrations in the vicinity of the fire at Lawrence Recycling,
Kidderminster during July 2013. Full
Monitoring of ambient air volatile organic compounds in
diffusion tubes. Full
In the PHE interpretation and advice report, what does
‘significant’ mean in real health terms?
That there would not be expected to be any measurable impact on the
health of the population.
If these results were known earlier,
would you have changed the public health messages when the fire was
The advice given to shelter indoors from smoke
wherever possible and as the fire continued for employers to
consider vulnerable employees in order to reduce their exposure at
work remains the appropriate advice to reduce any possible shorter
term health effects and limit exposure during the fire.
Was there any Nitrogen Dioxide, Sulphur Dioxide and BTEX
air quality testing done?
Wyre Forest District
Council undertook diffusion tube monitoring for Nitrogen Dioxide,
Sulphur Dioxide and BTEX (Benzene, Toluene, Ethyl Benzene and
Xylene isomers) at four locations in the vicinity of the Lawrence
Recycling site. The testing was undertaken between 02/07/13 and
26/07/13 by Ricardo AEA Ltd. Based on these results no further
action is required. The results can be seen in full
Will there be any long term monitoring of disease
following this fire?
The assessment is that there is
not a significant risk to health due to the fire and there would
not be any value in attempting a long term (over years) study of
health. However, any issues of concern
about their patients raised by General Practitioners will be
considered by PHE in discussion with health colleagues.
I was growing crops and eating them
and I live near to Lawrence’s Recycling, should I be
It is very unlikely there would be any
harm as a result of eating food from your garden that has been
exposed to smoke. However, contact your GP if you feel
Were drinking water supplies affected
by the fire?
Severn Trent Water monitors the quality
of our customers’ water supply every day. During and after the
fire, our checks showed that drinking water was not affected and
our customers’ water continued to be safe to drink. If this
situation had changed, we would have contacted our customers
What is happening now on site?
The demolition works have been completed and DSM Demolition Ltd has
left the site. The ash and trommel fines that were present in the
building are now stored on a concrete slab outside the demolished
buildings. Trommel fines are small fractions of waste produced when
solid, non-hazardous waste is mechanically segregated. The
Environment Agency has blocked the drains on site to ensure any
rainwater run-off from this material does not escape to the nearby
canal. The water is being contained and pumped to tanks at the
Severn Trent sewage works on Oldington Lane. The Environment Agency
is working with Lawrence’s Skip Hire Ltd to find a way of safely
storing this material on site until it can be removed.
Update 16th August
Wyre Forest District Council has recieved the final report in
respect of the air quality monitoring undertaken in July. This has
been shared with all the agencies involved in the
incident. The report is now being interpreted by
Public Health England and we are expecting this to take a week or
so when it will be published here.
When it rains, is the water running off site and going
into the canal?
The surface water drains on site have
been blocked and water is being contained and pumped by the
Environment Agency to spare tanks at the Severn Trent sewage works
on Oldington Lane. The Environment Agency is sampling this water to
see if it is safe to be discharged directly into the canal or if it
needs to be treated in the sewage works. Water will only be
discharged into the canal when the Environment Agency is confident
that it will not cause any problems to water supply or the
Update 7th August
The fire at Lawrence Recycling in
Kidderminster which started on 16 June is now out. Mark Preece from
Hereford and Worcester Fire & Rescue Service said crews
confirmed the fire was fully extinguished this morning (Wednesday 7
August). Demolition of part of the site began in July to extinguish
the fire, which at its height was tackled by 80 fire fighters.
The cause of the fire is thought to be
spontaneous combustion from heat generated while the waste at the
plant was being processed.
The work to demolish two fire-damaged bays
began on 24 July. The demolition of one is complete and the other
is expected be finished in the next few days.
Air quality sampling from Bradley
Environmental from 2nd August 2013 when demolition was taking
Update 30th July
How is the asbestos roof being
DSM Demolition Ltd operatives are removing the sheets
mechanically as they are at high level and in poor condition due to
the impact from the fire. They are using atomised spraying
systems to soak the sheets in advance of removal and undertaking
air monitoring at the site boundary at set locations. Operatives
are also wearing personal monitors to identify fibres. No asbestos
fibres have been detected during the course of the works. DSM
are also disposing of the asbestos sheets separately to minimise
costs for the project.
Will last Saturday’s flare up at the
site have any impact on the demolition
Saturday's flare up was an isolated incident
which we suspect was caused by increased wind speeds. This will not
impact on the demolition sequence.
How long will it take to take the bays
Providing that we do not have significant flare ups it is envisaged
that the bays will be substantially completed by 10th
What is the estimated time to complete
Upon completion of the bays DSM will work with Hereford and
Worcester Fire and Rescue Service to ensure that the fire
residue is completely cold. This will be dependant on the frequency
of water that we can apply without causing any environmental impact
to adjacent watercourses.
Update 29th July
Wyre Forest District Council requested further airborne fibre
sampling during the early stages of the demolition process at the
Lawrence Recycling site. The testing was undertaken on
25th July 2013 by ESG Asbestos Ltd. The results
have been received. Read the results of
airborne fibres testing. No further testing for
airborne fibres is planned. Further air testing
from Bradley Environmental.
Statement from Public Health England on airborne testing
“PHE has assessed the potential impact of any release of
respirable fibres, including asbestos, from the material at the
Lawrence Recycling site to the local community and people working
near to the site. This was based on the results of monitoring
undertaken on 25th July 2013 that showed only
very low levels of respirable fibres. The assessment
has concluded that any potential exposure to asbestos fibres from
the site would be so low that this would not constitute a
significant risk to health of the nearby public or nearby
Update 26th July
What is happening on site
The burnt waste is being damped
down in the building and the demolition is being carried out in
sections around this. Any excess water will be pumped by the
Environment Agency to Severn Trent Water for containment.
Can a permit be granted of the company
does not have insurance?
Insurance is not a prerequisite for granting an Environment Permit.
It sets out the conditions and procedures that must be followed to
minimise the risk of pollution to the environment or harm to human
health from the operations on site. The permit does not contain a
condition that relates to insurance.
Update 24th July
How much waste has the Environment Agency moved from
Lawrence’s Skip Hire Ltd site in Kidderminster?
To create space to extinguish the fire and to reduce the risk of
any further fire breaking out, the Environment Agency removed over
500 tonnes of unburnt waste from the main building at the site to
landfill, between Wednesday 17 July and Tuesday 23 July.
What will happen to the extinguished waste on
The fire fighting strategy involves damping
down the burnt waste, moving this away from the demolition area and
demolishing the building a section at a time. The extinguished
waste will be stored within the building footprint for storage and
disposal at a later date. The waste will be monitored to ensure
that it is suitable to store at the site without increasing any
amenity problems - flies, odour, dust etc.
What precautions are the Environment Agency taking to
reduce the risk of fish in the nearby canal being affected, when
the fire is being extinguished?
The rate of
demolition of the building and putting the fire out should result
in only a small amount of water being used. The Environment Agency
has blocked drains on the site and created a containment area where
waste can be brought out of the building and extinguished if
necessary. Any excess fire fighting water will be pumped and
contained in tanks at Severn Trent Water, Oldington Sewage Works.
The water company will work with the Environment Agency to assess
if this water can be treated at the sewage works or if it needs to
be tankered away for disposal at a larger treatment plant.
Will Lawrence’s Skip Hire Ltd be allowed to continue to
operate once the fire is out?
The Environment Agency
served a partial suspension notice to Lawrence’s Skip Hire Ltd
immediately after the fire to stop any further waste being brought
into the Forge. The company would need to make considerable
improvements to the building before they could accept waste safely
at the site. Lawrence’s Skip Hire Ltd is a registered waste carrier
and can legally continue to collect and take waste to other
permitted waste sites for treatment or disposal. The company is
allowed to use the weighbridge at the Forge and park vehicles and
store empty skips at the site.
Update 22nd July
What is happening on site?
During the week
commencing Monday 22nd July demolition contractors will be on the
site. Once all the Health and Safety documentation is in
place the demolition will get underway. When the demolition
has started sections of the smouldering waste will be removed from
the buildings and doused to extinguish the fire. Water used
dousing this material will be collected and taken off site in
tankers by the Environment Agency.
Will this cause a flare up and more
There is a possibility that moving the waste
may cause a flare up and a little more smoke. Hereford and
Worcester Fire and Rescue Service will be on site to deal with any
flare ups as they happen. All agencies are aware of the need
to keep smoke levels down and will be trying to do so.
Will the demolition cause more dust off
The demolition contractors are putting systems
in place to try to keep dust levels down to a minimum.
What is being done to monitor the
Wyre Forest District Council has organised for
further air quality monitoring to be undertaken during the
operation to demolish the building and put the fire out. The
results of the testing will be made available.
Update 18th July - Business Briefing
A further briefing was held on Wednesday 17th July for
businesses close to the site. It was to advise them on the
steps that the agencies will be taking to put out the
fire. The briefing was webcast and can be
viewed here. The presentation by Hereford and Worcester
Fire and Rescue Service is also available on the webcast, by
clicking on the 'resources' tab of the webcast.
Update 17th July - Agencies Confirm Steps To Put Out Fire
The agencies involved in responding to the fire at Lawrence
Recycling, Kidderminster have confirmed the steps that will be
taken in order to extinguish the fire.
Unburnt waste is already being removed from the main
building at the site and taken to landfill in order to create space
that will allow the burning waste to be moved to the northern side
of the site where there are interceptor traps. Hereford and
Worcester Fire and Rescue Service will then douse the burning
material to put out the fire, with the run off water being captured
in the interceptor traps and tankered away by contractors organised
by the Environment Agency. The water will be safely disposed of
elsewhere. The extinguished waste will be returned to its original
In order to proceed with these actions, the agencies
have been advised that the two fire-damaged bays at the Lawrence’s
site must be demolished in order to permit safe working by
specialist contractors in removing the waste prior to
Misting equipment will be deployed on Friday 19 July
in order to minimise dust and smoke with demolition commencing on
Monday 22 July. The dousing will start as soon as the safe
demolition allows. It is expected the fire will be out next week.
Disturbing the burning material and moving it
prior to dousing are likely temporarily to increase the grey-white
smoke that is emitted from the site. Wyre Forest District Council
is organising further air quality monitoring to be undertaken
during this period and the results will be published in due
Public Health England has confirmed its advice
to residents that the risks to their health are low. However
because any smoke is an irritant, it can make people’s eyes and
throat sore. People with asthma and other respiratory conditions
may be particularly susceptible to the smoke and should carry and
use their medication (such as inhalers) as usual.
The general advice therefore remains that, if
possible, people should try to remain out of the smoke. Workers
should reduce their exposure to the plume as much as is
practicable, and ventilate their workplace whenever the smoke is
moving away from their premises. If companies have any concerns
these should be directed to their local Health and Safety Executive
Office who will be able to provide support regarding consideration
of the need for personal protective equipment.
A briefing session for businesses located near to the Lawrence’s
site has been held on 17 July to brief them on the plans and the
steps that they need to consider in order providing an appropriate
working environment for their staff.
Ian Miller, Chief Executive of Wyre Forest District Council who
chaired the meeting of the agencies, said:
“The agencies have listened to local residents’ concerns. We have
continuously reviewed the situation regarding putting out the fire,
while protecting public health and the environment. The
recent hot weather, changes to water levels and temperatures
resulted in different conditions for the agencies to
consider. Coupled with information that the fire was likely
to burn for longer than first estimated, we have taken decisive
action to bring it to an end more quickly.”
The cost of the actions announced today is approximately £250,000
and is being met by the Environment Agency, Hereford and Worcester
Fire and Rescue Service, Wyre Forest District Council and
Worcestershire County Council. The public sector has had to step in
to deal with this matter because the company is unable to meet the
costs at present. Steps will be taken in due course to seek to
recover the public sector’s expenditure on dealing with this
Update Friday 12th July
Senior representatives of the key public sector bodies dealing
with the consequence of the fire at Lawrence Recycling & Waste
Management met on Friday 12th July.
The fire continues to burn and further air quality monitoring
has been carried out. The results have been analysed and the
smoke does not present a significant risk to the health of
residents or the wider public.
The group met to review its strategy for putting out the fire,
protecting public health and the environment. The recent hot
weather, changes to water levels and temperatures have resulted in
different conditions for the agencies to consider. The fire
is also likely to burn for longer than first estimated. The
various options for finding a tactic to put the fire out faster
were discussed. Each option had benefits, risks and costs, and some
options would increase the amount of smoke in the short term.
Ian Miller, Chief Executive of Wyre Forest District Council who
chaired the meeting, said:
“The agencies are listening to local residents’ concerns and
constantly reviewing the evidence to see if changes to their
strategy need to be made. We have considered the changes to
the situation and the agencies have decided to work on a strategy
which should see the fire put out more quickly.
The agencies are now working to ensure the equipment needed is
available and that we have the resources in place so that we can
make a final decision early next week. They will provide
information about what is going to happen and when and also what
the public can expect.
There is also going to be a further meeting with businesses to
give them advice and discuss the proposals moving forward.”
The Fire Service has been on the site every day since the fire
broke out and carrying out periodic inspections. Air
quality testing is continuing and the results will be published on
the Council’s website.
The agencies will continue to work with Lawrence Recycling &
Waste Management as it recovers from this incident.
Detailed information from all the agencies dealing with the
incident can be found at www.wyreforestdc.gov.uk/lawrencesfire
Update Thursday 11th July
Further to the announcement on 4th July about
further air quality monitoring, the results of particulate
monitoring from 6th to 9th July are set out in the report
below together with Public Health England’s advice which is as
“There is potential for symptoms in sensitive
individuals at these levels. Smoke from any source may contain
substances that can irritate the lining of the air passages, eyes
and the skin. Respiratory symptoms can include coughing and
wheezing, breathlessness, sputum (phlegm) production and chest
pain. People with asthma and other respiratory conditions may be
particularly susceptible to the smoke and should carry and use
their medication (such as their inhalers) as usual. If symptoms
occur, people should seek medical advice or call NHS Direct 0845
Subsequently, PHE reinforce its previous
advice that workers should reduce their exposure to the plume as
much as is practicable, and ventilate their workplace whenever the
smoke is moving away from their premise. If companies have any
concerns these should be directed to their local Health and Safety
Executive Office who will be able to provide support regarding
consideration of the need for PPE.”
Further monitoring for a range of substances
is being undertaken over a two week period which commenced on 5th
July. The results from this monitoring will be published: they are
expected to be available in early August as it takes time for the
results to be analysed.
Monitoring 5- 9th July Summary Report
Raw data for air quality monitoring
documents 5th-9th July
Update Thursday 4th July 2013
Further Air Quality Monitoring
Wyre Forest District Council has commissioned further air
quality monitoring as a result of the fire on Stourport Road,
Kidderminster which started on 16th June.
A spokesperson from Wyre Forest District
“We are doing further air quality monitoring on the advice of
Public Health England in view of the fact that the fire is likely
to be smoldering for some time to come. We understand the concerns
of residents and workers in local businesses who want assurance
that the health advice they have already been given is still
“Public Health England has advised us on the
predicted plume direction of the fire so we can ensure the monitors
are in the plume as best as is practicable. A gas meter was
installed at Whittles Coaches in Kidderminster on Tuesday
(2nd July) as the plume was circulating in that
location. The data was recorded for five hours and is presently
“The plume appears to be affecting a localised
area around the industrial estate around Lawrence’s. Monitoring
closest to where the plume is circulating should provide a better
indication of potential contaminants. Past experience tells us that
there would be drop off in any recorded levels further away from
the fire site.
“On Friday morning we will be installing
further monitors that will be in-situ for two weeks. The locations
will be chosen based on plume direction and Met office predicted
forecasts for the next two weeks.”
The results of the latest air quality
monitoring will be published once they are available.
Update Wednesday 3rd July 2013
Q&A Update to What about
Lawrence’s Skip Hire Ltd site is not
permitted to accept hazardous waste such as asbestos as part of
their Environmental Permit. However the building on site was
clad with asbestos. This was removed while the Fire Service
was actively fighting the fire. It has been securely stored
on site and will be disposed of by a specialist contractor.
Update Tuesday 2nd July 2013
Air quality monitoring documents from 17th and 18th June 2013
AQC summary report - Lawrence Skip Hire V1
AQC summary report - Lawrence Skip Hire V2
Raw data for full air quality monitoring documents 17th and
18th June 2013
Twenty four local businesses were represented at a multi-agency
briefing on the fire at Lawrence Waste & Recycling on the
Stourport Road, Kidderminster yesterday (Monday 1 July
2013).The briefing was held at Wyre Forest House, the district
council’s HQ, to advise businesses close to the site of the fire
about the ongoing management of the incident and the next steps
The fire, which broke out on Sunday
16th June, continues to smoulder and is likely to do so
for some weeks to come.
Attendees at the briefing were given an
overview of the ongoing situation followed by a Q&A.
Representatives from The Environment Agency, Public Health England,
Worcestershire Regulatory Services, Hereford and Worcester Fire
& Rescue Service and Wyre Forest District Council responded to
questions from the floor.
Linda Collis, Director of Community Well-being
and Environment from Wyre Forest District Council chaired the
briefing and explained that the district council is now
co-ordinating the multi-agency communications as well as
co-ordinating the multi-agency recovery group. There are two
key triggers which would prompt further multi-agency action.
The first is if there was a further flare up of the fire. This
would be managed as appropriate by the fire service. The second is
if the new air quality monitoring starting this week was to show a
change in levels that would require alternative health information
to be given to the public.
Dr David Kirrage, spokesperson from Public
Health England said:
“Given that the fire will smoulder for some
weeks, we have advised that further air quality monitoring should
take place to ensure that the advice we have given to local
businesses and residents remains relevant. We are aware that local
businesses and their employees are facing problems and have had to
stop or interrupt their pattern of work when the smoke has been a
“It’s important that local residents
understand that the risks to their health are low, however because
any smoke is an irritant, it can make people’s eyes and throat
sore. People with asthma and other respiratory conditions may be
particularly susceptible to the smoke and should carry and use
their medication (such as inhalers) as usual.
The general advice therefore remains that if
possible people should try to remain out of the smoke. We
have been in touch with the local Minor Injuries Unit and NHS
Direct and they are not reporting specific concerns as a result of
Participants agreed that a further briefing
would be valuable when there is further information to share. The
business briefing was webcast and can be viewed in full at www.wyreforestdc.public-i.tv/core/portal/home.
The briefing lasts for 1 hour. Please note,
the sound quality of the webcast is distorted in parts. We
apologise for any inconvenience.
You can keep up to date with all the latest
news, jobs and events in Wyre Forest. Find us on Facebook (Wyre
Forest District Council) or follow us on Twitter
Issued - Tuesday 2 July 2013
Update Wednesday 26th June 2013
Public agencies confirm response to fire at Lawrence
Senior representatives of the key public
sector bodies dealing with the consequence of the fire at Lawrence
Recycling & Waste Management met on Tuesday 25 June.
The fire continues to burn and the amount of smoke being emitted
is much less than a week ago. The smoke does not present a
significant risk to the health of residents or the wider public,
and detailed information about this has been jointly released by
Tuesday’s meeting looked at various options for managing the
fire. Each option had benefits, risks and costs, and some options
would increase the amount of smoke in the short term.
Ian Miller, Chief Executive of Wyre Forest District Council who
chaired the meeting, said:
“The agencies decided that the strategy of controlled burn should
continue. The fire will burn itself out and this process could take
several weeks. There are no overriding reasons relating to
protecting public health, the environment or neighbouring
properties to justify alternative actions at this time.
“The agencies understand why local residents feel concerned
about the ongoing impact of the fire, and have carefully reviewed
the evidence about the best strategy for protecting public health
and the environment.”
“It is recognised that smoke from the site is likely to be an
intermittent problem for nearby businesses and workers. The
agencies are planning to provide further advice to local businesses
on how best to minimise any impact on employees.”
To help reassure the public, Wyre Forest District Council will
be arranging for further air quality monitoring to be undertaken in
nearby residential areas and in industrial estates adjacent to the
site. The results will be published.
Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service will end its 24
hour presence on site as this is no longer necessary. It will
conduct periodic inspections and will attend if there is any “flare
up” in the fire.
Ian Miller continues:
“The public agencies have already invested significant
resources in dealing with the incident, for example the
Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service in fighting the
fire and providing a 24 hour presence on site, the multi-agency
team that undertook emergency air quality monitoring, and the
Environment Agency managing the impacts on the water
“One of the options considered by the public sector agencies was
demolishing the building and removal and landfill of the burnt
waste. The estimated costs ran to several hundred thousand pounds.
There would also be significant costs relating to containment and
removal of fire-fighting water from the site, to prevent it flowing
into the canal and the River Severn which could adversely affect
public water supplies. The costs of this course of action were
judged to be prohibitive and not justifiable at this time.”
The agencies will continue to work with Lawrence Recycling &
Waste Management as it recovers from this incident.
Update Tuesday 25th June 2013
Crews are still on site at Lawrence Recycling and Waste
Management on the Stourport Road in Kidderminster where a fire
broke out on Sunday 16 June. Hereford & Worcester
Fire and Rescue Service managed to bring the fire under
control during the night on Sunday 16 June, but it is likely to
take some time to extinguish completely. The Fire Service has
been at the site 24 hours a day since the fire started. The fire is
within large piles of baled up commercial and household waste
including paper, cardboard and plastic. The buildings are
structurally unsafe and therefore access is very limited.
To inform residents and businesses about the fire, the following
questions have been answered by the following agencies - Hereford
& Worcester Fire and Rescue Service, Environment Agency,
Public Health England, Severn Trent Water, and Worcester Regulatory
Services (WRS) on behalf of Wyre Forest District Council.
Why isn't the fire
being fought aggressively?
How long are we likely to have
smoke and smouldering recycling?
When is air quality
When did air quality
Why do we monitor air
What was found?
What are the possible
What about Dioxins and
PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls)?
What about health effects
from chemicals in fire run-off water?
What steps have been
taken since the fire at Lawrence’s 6 months ago?
I have a Lawrence skip
on my drive, will Lawrence’s pick it up?
Will the Environment Agency collect the skips?
the Environment Agency’s fault that they cannot collect the
Why isn’t the fire being fought aggressively?
The building is structurally unsound which presents an
unacceptable risk to fire fighters. There is on-going monitoring of
the site and we are continuing to look at the risk assessments and
environmental impacts of various options to manage the situation.
These options all have to take into account health and safety
issues, public health, environmental impact, levels/longevity of
disruption to the public and the cost to the public purse.
How long are we likely to have smoke and smouldering
It is expected that the fire will continue to burn for some time
due to the building being structurally unsafe, so the large
quantities of household waste are unable to be removed at this
time. Our efforts are focused on limiting the impact to the local
community as much as possible.
When is air quality monitored?
In large scale and potentially long lasting fires, a multi-agency
team comes together to coordinate and mobilise air quality
monitoring teams, to assess impacts upon local air quality. This is
known as an Air Quality Cell. Public Health England (PHE) uses the
data to assess the health impacts for members of the public in the
affected vicinity. Monitoring teams are mobilised where there is a
possibility of a fire burning for several days or more with a
potential to impact on local air quality.
When did air quality monitoring begin?
An Air Quality Cell was activated on Sunday evening (16 June)
for the fire at Lawrence Waste & Recycling at Kidderminster and
two air quality monitoring teams were deployed to the area.
Why do we monitor air quality?
Air monitoring information is used to assess the local air
quality to ensure that precautionary advice is appropriate and
identify any specific chemicals or products present that would need
additional public messages or interventions.
What is monitored?
The main impact on health from fires arises from particulate matter
(PM10 and PM2.5 particles) as in serious air pollution episodes.
Very high levels of these particulates have been associated with
short-term health effects.
Other chemicals measured are irritant gases which may produce
discomfort and short-lived effects such as throat, nose and eye
irritation. The detection of increased levels of these chemicals
may lead to more specialised advice being given, particularly to
susceptible groups such as asthmatics, the elderly and those with
What was found?
Monitoring teams were deployed at locations in the main direction
of the smoke plume at locations where members of the public could
potentially be exposed. These monitoring teams were some 250-500
metres away from the site. Monitoring was undertaken continuously
between the early hours on Monday morning (17 June) until late
afternoon on Tuesday (18 June).
Levels of particulates at these locations were not considered to
be of public health concern, particularly in view of the advice
given to close windows and doors and remain out of the smoke as
much as possible. Occasionally, high peaks were recorded for a few
minutes and these were consistent with increased fire fighting
activity at the site.
On the second day (Tuesday 18 June), in general, particulate
levels were much lower than had been reported on the previous day.
It was therefore agreed that there were no concerns for public
health and that continued monitoring would not be required.
What are the possible health concerns?
Any risks to the health of local residents are low. Smoke is
however an irritant so it can make people’s eyes and throat sore,
it may also worsen any breathing or heart conditions. People with
asthma and other respiratory conditions may be particularly
susceptible to the smoke and should carry and use their medication
(such as inhalers) as usual. If symptoms occur, people should seek
medical advice or call NHS Direct 0845 4647 / NHS 111. The general
advice remains, that people should stay out of the smoke as much as
possible. If residents are affected by smoke, staying indoors with
the doors and windows closed will provide additional protection.
In most cases there is insufficient exposure to chemicals in
smoke plumes to have the potential for long-term effects on health,
especially if advice to remain indoors and out of the smoke has
been followed. The same chemicals present in smoke plumes are also
present in air, indoors and outdoors, as well as being in many
foods and everyday household products.
What about Dioxins and PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls)?
During the main period of the fire (evening of Sunday 16 June until
evening of Tuesday 18 June 2013), there was no evidence or
information that any debris, including fragments of asbestos
containing materials (ACM), had been carried by the plume from the
site and had been deposited within publicly accessible areas. There
are currently no public health concerns arising from the dispersal
of debris by the smoke plume into the wider community.
Recently, it has been reported that the main recycling building
has become structurally unsound as a result of the on-going fire
and that there is a small possibility of collapse. We understand
the building construction includes ACMs (eg in the roof and wall
cladding). To minimise any spread of ACMs, should a roof collapse
occur, a specialist contactor has been working on-site to remove
ACM from the building and remove it from the site. In the event of
a structural collapse, any off-site dispersal of debris should not
present a significant contamination concern with respect to ACMs.
The situation would be reviewed if this were to happen.
Lawrence’s Skip Hire Ltd site is not permitted to accept
hazardous waste such as asbestos as part of their Environmental
Permit. However the building on site was clad with
asbestos. This was removed while the Fire Service was
actively fighting the fire. It has been securely stored on
site and will be disposed of by a specialist contractor.
What about health effects from chemicals in fire run-off
Water run-off from fires can contain organic materials. If this
run-off water enters the local waterways (canal and River Severn)
it may result in de-oxygenation of the water. This could impact on
local water quality and aquatic life in the area and hence this
run-off water may be potentially toxic to aquatic life. Fire
fighting activities are being undertaken in a manner to minimise
Run-off chemicals in canal water are substantially diluted on
entering the River Severn and concentrations at drinking water
abstraction points are not considered to impact on eventual
drinking water quality. Severn Trent Water constantly monitors the
quality of its customers’ water. The company’s checks continue to
show that drinking water supplies have not been affected and water
is safe for customers to drink. If this situation changes,
Severn Trent Water has a robust plan in place and will contact its
What steps have been taken since the fire at Lawrence’s 6
One of the roles of the Environment Agency is to ensure that
business can operate without compromising environmental standards
or causing a risk to people. One of the ways it does this is
through an environmental permit. This is a legal document that
contains conditions that operators must comply with in order to
Lawrence Skip Hire Ltd was granted a permit in March 1998. This
permit controls the storage and processing of non-hazardous waste.
In December 2012 a fire broke out at the site in Kidderminster. The
Environment Agency worked with other partners to manage the fire
and the environmental impacts from this. Since then it has been
working with the operators to inspect and audit their processes
from a regulatory perspective. The Environment Agency recommended a
number of actions to the operator around waste storage and fire
prevention measures. Hereford & Worcester Fire and
Rescue Service also made recommendations. The site operator
has made significant improvements since December to the way that
waste entering the site is stored and handled. The site was
recently audited and the Environment Agency was in the process of
working with the operators to put measures in place, which included
more measures to reduce the fire risk on site.
Fire incidents are unique to the site and situation. Following this
incident the Environment Agency will be working with the site
operators and the Fire Service to ascertain the reason for the fire
and how to reduce the risk of it happening again. It has a number
of options available including reviewing and revoking a permit. The
Environment Agency has already served the company with a temporary
suspension notice which prevents them from accepting any more waste
on to the site while it is in force.
I have a Lawrence skip on my
drive, will Lawrence’s pick it up?
Lawrence Skip Hire has informed us that they will not be collecting
any skips that are off site. Customers should contact the company
to discuss alternative arrangements. Their general enquiries number
is 0844 800 7713
the Environment Agency collect the skips?
No, the skips are owned by Lawrence Skip Hire and
are therefore their responsibility. Customers should contact them
to discuss alternative arrangements. The waste in the skips is the
responsibility of the customer until collected, so we would urge
those who have made alternative arrangements for their waste to be
collected to check that the operator is a licensed waste carrier.
They can check this by searching the public registers on our
Is it the Environment
Agency’s fault that they cannot collect the waste, they are
stopping them from collecting it aren’t they?
Lawrence’s is a registered waste carrier and can
legally continue to collect and take waste to other permitted waste
sites. As a result of the fire, we served the company with a
partial suspension notice. It prevents them accepting or processing
any more waste on the site in Kidderminster but does not stop them
collecting skips. The notice has been served because the waste on
site is still burning. Our priority is to ensure that
businesses can operate without causing harm to human health or the
environment but there are measures we can implement if we do not
think this is being achieved.
Update Friday 21st June 2013
Crews are still on site at Lawrence Recycling
on the Stourport Road in Kidderminster where a fire broke out on
Sunday 16 June.
One fire engine and one High Volume Pumping
unit are working to extinguish the large quantity of burning
material on site.
Hereford and Worcester Fire & Rescue
Service managed to bring the fire under control on Sunday night but
it is likely to take many days to extinguish it completely.
The Fire Service has been at the site 24 hours a day since the fire
started. The fire is within large piles of baled up commercial and
household waste including paper, cardboard and plastic. The
buildings are structurally unsafe and therefore access is very
Group Commander Grant Wills said 'It is
expected that the fire will continue to burn for some time due to
the building being structurally unsafe so the large quantities of
household waste are unable to be removed at this time. Our efforts
are focused on limiting the impact to the local community as much
Air quality monitoring by the Environment
Agency has not shown raised levels of hazardous compounds in the
smoke plume, but smoke from any fire can be an irritant if it is
particularly dense. Currently the amount of smoke is reducing but
its direction can vary according to the prevailing wind. Public
Health England (PHE) has advised that anyone affected by the smoke
should stay indoors and keep doors and windows closed. Anyone
concerned about symptoms they may be experiencing due to smoke
should call NHS Direct on 0845 4647 / NHS 111.
Dr David Kirrage, a consultant with PHE’s West
Midlands West Health Protection Team, said: “It’s important
that local residents understand that the risks to their health are
low, however because any smoke is an irritant, it can make people’s
eyes and throat sore. People with asthma and other respiratory
conditions may be particularly susceptible to the smoke and should
carry and use their medication (such as inhalers) as usual. The
general advice therefore remains that if possible people should try
to remain out of the smoke.
“We are aware there have been claims about
longer term health risks to residents affected by the fire, from
chemicals such as dioxins. The clear scientific advice, based on
experience gained from numerous fires worldwide, states that, in
relation to this fire the levels of such chemicals released over
the time it has burnt and may continue to burn, do not pose any
significant short or long term risk to the health of
Advice from Worcestershire Regulatory
Services, which monitors air quality for Wyre Forest District
Council, is that there is no danger to public health from the
remains of the fire at this time. Levels of smoke on Tuesday were
recorded as less than 20% of Monday's levels and as long as the
fire continues to die down that downward trend will continue. The
situation will be reassessed daily.
The Environment Agency has also been on site
since Sunday, trying to minimise all the environmental impacts of
the fire with partners. Work has included containing the
majority of fire fighting water on site, and preventing it from
escaping into the nearby Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal and
River Severn. A small amount did escape into the canal which
depleted oxygen levels and led to the Environment Agency deploying
Dave Throup, Environment Manager from the
Environment Agency said:
“We have been working closely with all partner
agencies to review the options for managing the fire and its
possible impacts. As well as our work at the site of the fire, we
have worked closely with the Canal and River Trust to increase the
levels of oxygen in the canal, which has helped protect thousands
of fish. We have also moved around 300 fish to healthier
water in the canal upstream in the centre of Kidderminster.”
James Jesic, Production Manager from Severn
Trent Water, said:
“We constantly monitor the quality of our
customers’ water. Our checks show that drinking water supplies have
not been affected and our customers’ water is safe to
drink. If this situation changes we have a robust plan in
place and will contact our customers.”
Wyre Forest District Council, Worcestershire
Regulatory Services, The Canal & River Trust and West Mercia
Police have all been working with the main responding agencies to
manage the situation.
Currently the cause of the fire is unknown and
is under investigation by the Fire Service and the Police. The
Environment Agency will work with the Operator to inspect and audit
their processes from a regulatory perspective, and what actions
they need to take to improve waste storage and fire prevention
Update Monday 17th June 2013
Link to update issued by the police on Monday 17th June 201