You are here: Home Page > 2013 > June 2013 > Lawrence Fire Update

Fire at Lawrence Recycling & Waste Management, Kidderminster

 

Update 27th August

Further air quality test results show no significant risk
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 July.

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 health.”

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 environment.”

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. PHE 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 report.

Monitoring of ambient air volatile organic compounds in diffusion tubes. Full report.

Further Q&As

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 burning? 

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 below.  

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 concerned?
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 ill.

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 immediately.

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 environment.

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 place.

Update 30th July

How is the asbestos roof being demolished?
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 plans?
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 down?
Providing that we do not have significant flare ups it is envisaged that the bays will be substantially completed by 10th August.

What is the estimated time to complete the demolition?
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 results:

“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 workforce"

Update 26th July

What is happening on site now?
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 site?
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 smoke?
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 site?
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 air?
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 location.

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 dousing.

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 course.

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 matter.

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 follows:

“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 4647.

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.

Air Quality 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 Council said:

“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 relevant.

“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 being analyzed.

“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 asbestos?
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 summaries:

Consolidated AQC summary report - Lawrence Skip Hire V1


Consolidated AQC summary report - Lawrence Skip Hire V2

Raw data for full air quality monitoring documents 17th and 18th June 2013

Business Briefing

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 recovery wise.

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 problem.

“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 the fire.”

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 (@wyreforestdc).

Issued - Tuesday 2 July 2013

Update Wednesday 26th June 2013

Public agencies confirm response to fire at Lawrence Recycling


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 the agencies.

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 environment.

“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 monitored?
When did air quality monitoring begin?
Why do we monitor air quality?
What is monitored?
What was found?
What are the possible health concerns?
What about Dioxins and PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls)?
What about asbestos?
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
?
Is it the Environment Agency’s fault that they cannot collect the waste?

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 recycling?

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 respiratory conditions.

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?

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 water run-off.

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 customers.

What steps have been taken since the fire at Lawrence’s 6 months ago?

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 continue operating.
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

Will 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 website http://epr.environment-agency.gov.uk/ePRInternet/SearchRegisters.aspx

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 limited.

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 as possible.”

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 residents.”

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 aerators.

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 measures

Update Monday 17th June 2013

Link to update issued by the police on Monday 17th June 201
Page Information
This page was last reviewed 2 September 2013 at 12:07 by Suzanne Johnston-Hubbold.
The page is next due for review 1 March 2014.
Map of Worcestershire Bromsgrove District Council Malvern District Council Redditch Borough Council Worcester City Council Wychavon District Council Wyre Forest District Council
The county of Worcestershire includes the districts of:


Google Translate