WASTE from the fire at Averies Recycling could be transferred to Hills Waste Management after the company agreed to take on the task which would allow the fire service to finally extinguish the 1,000 tonne pile.
The fire at the waste site in Marshgate has now been burning for more than three weeks, as Wiltshire Fire and Rescue have been unable to fully tackle the flames within the 30 foot high pile without extracting some of the rubbish.
Plans to transfer an unknown quantity of unburned or extinguished waste to the vacant Groundwell Park and Ride site were met with a hostile reaction from residents and local councillors, who voted unanimously for other options to be considered at a meeting last week.
Following discussions with Hills Waste Management, the company have said they are open to accepting the waste. Partners are still considering all available options, including the Groundwell site.
Mark Dempsey, Labour parliamentary candidate for North Swindon, called on the Environment Agency to use its powers to force Averies to pay for the process.
“Hills Waste Management Limited have confirmed they are willing to treat the waste,” he said. “It can be transferred to a permitted waste management facility with proper environmental pollution control measures. Here the waste can be properly treated in a purpose built facility.
“Local residents near Groundwell are deeply concerned about the potential health and environmental impacts of using a site that is not designed to store waste. We are concerned that the use of this site could cause air pollution, water pollution and waste could possibly reignite.
“The Environment Agency can use its powers under Part 57 of the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010. This states clearly that the regulator may arrange for steps to be taken to remedy the effects of pollution and that if the regulator arranges for steps to be taken under this regulation, it may recover the cost of taking those steps from the operator.
“We were also told by the council that an order from the agency would take weeks or perhaps even months. However the regulations state that such an order from the Environment Agency can be issued with just five days notice.”
Brian Mattock, deputy leader of Swindon Council, said the fire is a major incident and every step was being taken to ensure the public are safe and the fire is put out promptly.
“This is a partnership arrangement, and we are working with the fire service, public health and council officers to make sure the best solution is found to stop the continued combustion of the site in Marshgate,” he said. “The health and safety of residents is at the forefront of everything we are doing.”
Mark Gaskarth, Area Manager Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service, said: “We continue to explore a range of options which would allow waste to be moved from the fire at Averies, in Marshgate. A public meeting was held on Friday about moving the waste to the former Groundwell Park & Ride site, which representatives from partner agencies attended to explain the position and answer any questions.
"We are also aware of an online petition related to this plan and continue to respond to any residents’ concerns. At present, technical advice indicates this site remains the least worst option and that no other more suitable sites have as yet been identified. We would like to take the opportunity to remind people that this is a difficult situation and the agencies involved are doing their best to minimise any disruption for all residents and businesses. We will continue working hard to put out the fire as quickly as possible so normality can resume for everyone and we’re grateful for the public’s ongoing understanding in these challenging circumstances.”
A spokesman for the Environment Agency said options are still being considered, including the use of the former park and ride at Groundwell.
Further calls have been made to impose conditions on waste licences after it was revealed it is not a legal requirement for Averies to operate their Marshgate site with valid insurance.
Steven Taylor, head of law at Swindon Council, said: “It is not a legal requirement for the company to hold insurance for these sorts of premises. It seems it is likely that Averies do not have any.”
Talis Kimberley, of the Swindon Area Green Party, said it is vital condition of any future licence should be that proper insurance is in place.
“Astonishingly, there’s no requirement on waste handling companies to insure against fire,” she said. “The Waste Disposal companies’ code of conduct doesn’t even mention fire hazard.
“The Environment Agency, who licence waste sites, should require as a condition of the licence that anyone storing waste professionally has adequate insurance. The fire service also has to be able to easily access and extinguish any fires that do break out.”