On 2 March 2017, a large fire broke out on a part of the facility operated by Site Serv Recycling Ltd, at the Llandow Trading Estate, near Cowbridge.
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) granted an environmental permit for the site in June 2015. The affected part of the facility, known as hangar B, is used for the processing of general black bag waste. Here, it is sorted, shredded and baled as a fuel (known as Refused Derived Fuel - RDF) before being transported off site for use in Energy from Waste facilities.
Mixed wastes and RDF are at risk of self-combustion and have an increased fire risk if stored on sites for longer than three months. A condition of the permit requires the operator to produce a Fire Prevention Plan detailing how the business will be managed to reduce fire risk – in line with guidance from NRW and South Wales Fire and Rescue, and to comply with legislation. Such a document was produced by Site Serv Recycling Ltd and authorised by Luke England.
However, compliance visits by NRW officers in the months leading up to the fire highlighted a steady increase in waste being stored without fire breaks, and that waste was being stored for longer than permitted. These concerns were raised with the company, and further inspections took place with support from South Wales Fire and Rescue. Following each visit, a Compliance Assessment Review (CAR) form was produced and submitted to the company, requiring it to take action. Deadlines dates were not met, and no action was taken on the site to address the concerns.
When the fire broke out in March 2017, the entire area of stored waste caught alight, making it more difficult for the Fire and Rescue Service to extinguish. If the company had complied with the conditions of its permit and installed fire breaks, the fire would have been contained to a much smaller area.
In their investigation, the Fire and Rescue Service concluded that the fire was caused by accidental ignition caused by the self-heating of the wastes.
NRW are therefore prosecuting for breaches of the conditions of the environmental permit, including failing to operate and manage their activities in line with the Fire Prevention Plan – between July 2016 and February 2017.
Susana Fernandez, Senior Environmental Crime officer from NRW said:
“We permit and regulate waste sites to make sure they can operate safely, without causing harm to the local environment or nearby communities.
“These companies also have a duty to manage their business responsibly and in line with the conditions of their permit.
“This fire could have been avoided, had the company followed their own Fire prevention Plan and heeded the advice of our officers, and South Wales Fire and Rescue.
“Unfortunately the company failed to make this a priority and the community paid the price.”
Nathan is the Operations Director and one half of Vale Breakfast on Bro Radio. You'll hear him reading local news, hosting at local events and presenting our facebook live videos.