Concern over environmental impact of fires at Leeds waste sites

Firefighters damp down following a fire at HW Martin in Beeston
Firefighters damp down following a fire at HW Martin in Beeston
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Concern has been voiced over the potential environmental damage caused by the high number of serious fires at waste recycling sites in Leeds.

Since July last year there have been major blazes at locations in Beeston, Armley and Sherburn in Elmet. The matter is due to be discussed at a meeting of West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service’s community safety committee.

Assistant chief fire officer Dave Walton said such incidents – and the consequent firefighting operations – had a serious impact on the environment.

He said: “The application of significant amounts of water in an attempt to extinguish the fire can have the consequential effect of producing large amounts of contaminated fire water run-off which can, in turn, pollute local water courses.

“Conversely a policy of controlled burning can have an air quality impact and produces a source of annoyance and inconvenience for nearby residents and businesses which can last for some considerable time given the deep seated nature of such fires in massive quantities of waste.”

The largest fire at a waste site in West Yorkshire in recent years broke out at HW Martin in Beeston on July 31 last year. Twelve fire engines were involved in battling the blaze at its height.

Six engines dealt with a similar incident at Yorkshire Plastic Recycling in Armley on New Year’s Day. Most recently, 15,000 tyres went up in flames at Newgen Recycling in Sherburn on January 16.

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: “Fires at recycling and waste sites can potentially have a significant impact on the local environment and nearby communities.

“When responding to such incidents, the Environment Agency aims to assess the possible risks and ensure that action is taken to prevent or limit the damage that the fire may have on the environment.

“For example, we check the site’s proximity to watercourses and surface water drains, and work with water companies to find out what possible impact there could be on drinking water supplies.

“Any liquids used to put out the fire can run-off the site, causing pollution, so we also work with the fire service to consider the most appropriate way of dealing with the fire itself.”

Flora Mewies of Ward Hadaway

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