Twenty-three day fire costs composter £20,000

Severn Waste Services, a subsidiary of Focsa, has been fined £18,000 after 1,000 tonnes of composting waste caught fire at its Hill and Moor landfill, Pershore, and burned for 23 days. The company had not been monitoring temperature or moisture content.

On 1 October last year, the Environment Agency received a call from Severn Waste Services to say that green waste in the landfill's composting area had caught fire.

The fire service attended the site and, finding around 1,000 tonnes of green waste on fire, dug a firebreak to stop the blaze spreading. It was then decided to let a controlled burn of the remaining wastes occur.

The next day, an Agency officer visited the site and found staff had failed to stop the fire spreading. Flames were still exposed, and smoke was rising up to 200 metres into the air, affecting local residents.

The fire was still raging on 4 October, although it died down the next day. The fire did not burn out completely until 23 October.

Agency investigations revealed the fire to have probably started amongst a pile of shredded waste waiting composting. It had rapidly spread to nearby piles of unshredded waste.

Severn Waste Services, it turned out, had not undertaken a fire risk assessment for compost operations at the landfill. It had not been monitoring the temperature or moisture content of the waste either - in spite of the fire risk.

Appearing before Worcester magistrates on 24 August, the company pleaded guilty to failing to keep waste in a manner likely to avoid pollution, contrary to section 33(1) and 33(6) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. It was fined £18,000 and ordered to pay £2,966 costs.

In judgment, the magistrates said Severn Waste Services should have been aware of the fire risk given that there had been a fire in composted waste at the site less than a month previously. The company was not prosecuted for that incident.

Focsa is five years into a 25-year PFI disposal contract with Herefordshire and Worcestershire (ENDS Report 288, pp 15-16 ).

Related Environmental Services

Powered by ENDS Directory

Compliance Search

Discover all ENDS content in one place, including legislation summaries to keep up to date with compliance deadlines

Compliance Deadlines

Plan ahead with our Calendar feature highlighting upcoming compliance deadlines

News from ENDS Europe

News from ENDS Waste & Bioenergy