Questions and answers on the fire in Walesby:
- What's happening at the site now?
A demolition company was brought in last week (Monday 10 October) to dismantle what was left of the structure and expose the material and waste that was burning underneath. This has now been completed and earlier this week, on Tuesday 18 October, fire crews from a number of stations resumed aggressive fire-fighting at the scene. To assist with this and help the Service bring this incident to an end, a specialist ‘wetting agent’ is now being used. This agent helps the water penetrate into the waste that is burning to bring the temperature down and extinguish the flames.
- Why is there still smoke?
As part of the aggressive fire-fighting attack that is now taking place, a number of ‘diggers’ are being used to turn the smouldering waste over so that firefighters can get to, and subsequently extinguish, the fire. This is an important part of the fire-fighting process, however this has has increased the smoke plume which is being carried across the village by the wind. It is hoped that this plume will reduce over the coming days as firefighters continue to work hard to fully extinguish the fire.
- How long is this going to take?
Fire-fighting began again on Tuesday (18 October) and excellent progress has been made on the site so far. Fire crews are on the scene again today (Thursday 20 October) and are working incredibly hard to try and bring the incident to a swift end. The special ‘wetting agent’ is helping to speed up the firefighting process but there is quite a vast amount of smouldering waste on the site and it is expected that crews will continue to be in attendance over the coming days. Representatives from Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service, the Environment Agency, Newark and Sherwood District Council and Public Health England are continuing to monitor the situation and daily updates are being provided as to the fire’s progress
- Why wasn't the fire put out in the first place?
A tactical fire-fighting option available to fire and rescue services is to allow a fire to burn. This approach is often taken where a building is likely to be a total loss and there is no risk of injury to people, plus the environmental damage caused by contaminated fire-fighting water outweighs the benefits of extinguishing the fire. It can also be used to allow the size of a fire to reduce to a level where the environmental and firefighter safety risks are tolerable.
In the case of this fire, a joint decision was made by Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service and the Environment Agency to let the fire burn for a period of time due to the sensitivities of water courses that supply drinking water to the local area. The fire is subject to continuous review and monitoring to identify the most suitable point to begin an aggressive fire-fighting attack to extinguish the fire. One of the considerations in the development of this approach is that once an aggressive attack begins, there is the potential for the flames and volume of smoke to increase significantly before the fire is fully extinguished.
- What types of materials are burning?
It is suspected that the materials involved are predominantly general household and municipal wastes, some of which have been shredded and wrapped in plastic bales. However, whilst the fire is ongoing, the ability to sample and assess the material is limited.
- Why don't you put the fire out with sand and foam?
The Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) has explored various methods of fire-fighting in order to extinguish the fire. The use of sand, earth or foam are not the preferred methods as a long term solution; additionally, the waste will still have to be moved and the resulting fires extinguished, and it would therefore take longer to resolve the incident. The FRS is keeping all of the options under constant review and will ensure the most effective (taking account of all factors) fire-fighting tactics are employed.
This is something that the Environment Agency is keen to understand as part of the ongoing investigation. Whilst specific details cannot be discussed at this stage, the storage of mixed general wastes should only be carried out under the authorisation of a relevant Environmental Permit. No such authorisation was in place for this waste and the Environment Agency are considering the deposit and storage of the waste at this site to be an illegal activity.
- Is anyone monitoring the air quality?
Newark and Sherwood DC have contacted a specialist to undertake the air quality monitoring. This is likely to commence in the next few days.
- What to do if you feel ill effects/what should I do if the smoke is affecting me?
All smoke is an irritant, however it is not believed that there is a cause for public concern, other than the nuisance from the smoke.
Smoke can make people’s eyes and throat sore. People with asthma and other respiratory conditions should carry and use their inhaler as a precaution.
If you have any concerns about the smoke’s impact on your health please call your GP surgery for advice, following any instructions for out of hours services, or contact the NHS 111 service (which is free from both landlines and mobiles and open 24/7).
- I live locally and the smoke is bothering me, what should I do?
Concentrations of substances in smoke are often below those which pose an immediate risk to health, but may still result in discomfort or temporary health effects such as coughing or a tight chest. These symptoms usually disappear very soon and do not lead to any long term health problems. The general advice remains that people should do all they can to stay out of the smoke including to shut windows and doors.
- Who is leading on the incident?
Newark and Sherwood District Council as the lead for the overall incident will continue to liaise with the landowner over their responsibilities and access to the site.
Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service, Environment Agency and Public Health England will continue to tackle the fire, advise on the impact to the environment and impact on health respectively.
The cause of the fire will be investigated by the Fire Service. The Environment Agency will continue to give views on the fire-fighting tactics and how they may impact the environment and investigate the potential crime of storing waste on site without the appropriate permissions.
Air is polluted if it contains substances which have a harmful effect on the environment and health or cause a nuisance. We depend on clean air for our well-being and there is no doubt that air pollution causes a range of health effects from minor symptoms such as headaches, sore throats and coughs to more serious problems such as difficulty in breathing and aggravation of respiratory conditions.
Everyday activities have the potential to pollute the air such as fumes from road traffic, fuel-burning heating devices and industrial emissions.
Local air quality management
The Environment Act 1995 places a duty on local authorities to manage air quality in their area and work towards meeting national objectives. The National Air Quality Strategy sets standards for the eight main air pollutants and objectives for the UK. If investigations indicate objectives are being exceeded, an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) must be declared covering the affected area. Action plans must then be drawn up setting out how further objectives are to be achieved.
Air quality in Newark and Sherwood
We review and assess local air quality on an annual basis and submit a report of our findings to the Government. Each year the report progressively updates the information since the last submission by considering new monitoring data for the area, new sources of emissions to air and changes to existing sources that may be significant to local air quality.
During 2011 our report indicated that within the district all relevant air quality objectives were likely to be met at all locations. This conclusion was accepted by DEFRA.