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14th November 2016

In recent years the diversion of waste away from landfill has seen a considerable increase in the volume of waste materials being recycled. This in turn has led to a growth in the number of facilities that treat and handle those wastes. Considerable volumes of materials, many of which are combustible, are handled and stored at these sites and there has been a significant number of these facilities going up in flames. For example, on 8th and 9th August 2016, five separate facilities were ablaze across the country.

The fires resulted in millions of pounds’ worth of damage with lost buildings and infrastructure. For those companies involved, there would have been immediate loss of income, significant reputational damage, immediate rebuild and replacement requirements, and increased insurance premiums. Once cannot ignore the risks posed to the lives of those required to fight the fire, as well as consequential losses to either neighbours, the environment, or both.

In March 2015 the Environment Agency published their guidance on fire prevention plans (Fire prevention plan guidance v2) which built upon and strengthened their original guidance published in TGN 7.01, published in October 2013. The guidance was sent out for consultation between November 2015 and March 2016, and the revised guidance (version 3) for permitted waste handling sites (excluding landfill) was issued on 29th July 2016. The document has most recently been updated on 9th November 2016, and this version of the fire prevention plan (FPP) guidance can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fire-prevention-plans-environmental-permits/fire-prevention-plans-environmental-permits

The aims of the FPP guidance are:
• To minimise the likelihood of a fire occurring in the first instance;
• To aim for a fire at a facility to be extinguished within 4 hours from the time it started;
• To minimise the spread of fire within the site and to any neighbouring sites or property.

Causes of fires range from deliberate acts of arson, to electrical faults, to spontaneous combustion of the materials being stored on site. The risks from each need to be taken on board. Caulmert’s Environmental Permitting Team has extensive knowledge of the requirements of fire prevention plans under the permitting regime for waste management and materials recycling facilities, both preparing new fire prevention plans for existing facilities, or else advising on the design of new facilities to incorporate suitable measures for fire prevention and fire water management. We have acted in this capacity for several waste transfer and treatment facilities and household waste recycling facilities in both the private and public sector.

Caulmert staff also have many years’ experience with regard to the operation of leachate and gas management systems on landfills throughout the UK, including first-hand experience of ameliorating risks from deep-seated landfill fires.

With recycling rates set to rise to meet Government targets, the risk of fires occurring at waste handling facilities also increases. It is therefore vital to an operator that fire prevention plans are put into place, and that the site staff are aware of the protocols and procedures to be followed in the event that a fire is discovered, in order to minimise the risk to life, property and the environment.

For further information contact: Andy Stocks, Tel: 01773-749132, Email: AndyStocks@Caulmert.com

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