Between August and December 2012 an excessive amount of waste was stored at a site in Kidderminster, the amount breached the environmental permit held by Lawrences Recycling & Waste Management Ltd and occurred despite warnings from the Environment Agency. Due to poor management and the amount of waste in December 2012 it self combusted causing a serious fire which lasted almost a week. Following the incident the Environment Agency and Hereford and Worcester Fire & Rescue gave further warnings but the company ignored and more waste gathered. A second fire broke out in June 2013 and this time burned for eight weeks! This had significant impact on the local community and environment, the air was contaminated with smoke, affecting residents, visitors and many activities of local businesses. 3,000 fish were killed and drinking water supplies were put at risk when the contaminated fire-fighting water ran off the land, polluting the local canal.
Claimed to be the biggest indoor waste management facility in Europe they went into administration in September 2013 due to the company not having insurance after the first fire, this meant that others had to pick up the bill for the clean up costs which involved demolishing a building, extinguishing the fires and controlling the pollution.
David Lawrence the “technically competent manager” received a nine month prison sentence, suspended for two years and ordered to complete 180 hours of unpaid work. Company Chairman Andrew Gibson was sentenced to four and a half months in jail, suspended for two years and ordered to complete 90 hours unpaid work.
Decomposition or organic matter and chemical reactions within waste stockpiles are a known cause for high temperatures and can lead to fires, this is the reason why companies who store or deposit waste in bulk must have a fire prevention plan.
Þ If you store waste, ensure you have an environmental permit or where applicable have applied for an
exemption. Secondly comply with the terms and conditions of the permit.
Þ Permits for the storage of combustible waste include a requirement for a fire prevention, this should specify the maximum size of piles and separation distances be strictly checked.