Fire at former Hunter’s Waste Site
On 18 August 2016 a fire broke out at the site formerly operated by Hunter’s Waste Management at Scotland Yard, Lockwood, Huddersfield.
We have been working together with the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, the Environment Agency, and Public Health England to deal with this incident.
The fire is still smouldering and we appreciate that residents and businesses require updating on a number of issues.
Below is an update of what has been done so far to resolve this incident. This will hopefully answer any questions you have, but if you have any further questions, you can contact the relevant organisations using the following numbers:
- Environment Agency: (03708) 506506 (to report pollution incidents, please call 0800 807060)
- Kirklees Council: (01484) 414700
- West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service: (01274) 682311
- Police: In an emergency please dial 999; for non-emergencies dial 101
- For health advice please dial 111 or contact your GP.
What action is being taken against the companies involved?
The fire at the former Hunter’s site is the latest in a series of issues relating to this site.
Since 2014, the Council has led on a number of prosecutions against the companies operating on the site for offences related to abandoned skips on public highways and noise.
The Environment Agency, Office of the Traffic Commissioner and the Health and Safety Executive have also taken action against the operators for breaching legislation.
In May 2016, the Council started injunction proceedings requiring Hunters to reduce the amount and type of waste on site to comply with planning permission.
An injunction is one of the strongest legal powers available. It means a court can order an individual or an organisation to start or stop doing something, and if they do not follow what is put in place, they would be liable for sanctions.
An investigation into how the fire started is being carried out by the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS).
The Council continues to work closely with colleagues in the WYFRS, The Environment Agency and Public Health England to resolve the current issues.
What is being done to control the fire?
When the fire broke out the Council responded as part of our emergency planning process to support the Fire Service. The operators and leaseholders of part of the site did not respond to attempts by the Council to contact them.
At this point, the Council stepped in to seek permission from the Environment Agency to move the waste to create a fire break, and reduce the risk to the neighbouring business. The Council cannot legally take any action to move the waste without the permission of the Environment Agency as they are responsible for licensing waste management operations on the site.
Whilst the fire break was successful in reducing risk to neighbouring properties, the seat of the fire still sits in an inaccessible location at the centre of the site.
The position was considered by Kirklees Council’s Cabinet on 20 September 2016. The report to Cabinet informed councillors of the background to the current position and Cabinet was asked to consider the:
• consequences for local residents and businesses since the previous operators abandoned the site
• subsequent sale and liquidation of various companies who had an interest in the site and the waste management operations
• considerable financial costs that the Council would need to incur to deal with the issues on the site.
The Cabinet agreed to support the safe removal of waste from the site. In addition they supported the possibilities for legal action against the former operators and leaseholders of the site being investigated.
Could the fire affect my health?
Public Health England is providing specialist expert advice on the potential health-related impacts of the fire.
Their advice for residents and businesses in the area is as follows:
General health advice
Where smouldering material is burning, smoke may be an issue for members of the public. Any smoke can be an irritant and, in areas which are affected by smoke, you should stay indoors as much as possible and keep doors and windows closed. You should then ventilate properties when the wind changes direction. If you need to be outdoors, avoid areas affected by smoke or ash if possible or limit the amount of time you spend in such areas.
Some of the substances present in smoke can irritate the lining of the air passages, the skin and the eyes. Respiratory symptoms include coughing and wheezing, breathlessness, sputum production and chest pain. If any such symptoms occur as a result of being exposed to smoke, you should contact your General Practitioner (GP) for medical advice, or phone NHS 111.
The human nose is very sensitive to odours, and many substances that seem odorous are usually present at low levels and will not have a direct harmful effect.
Odours can however cause annoyance and can lead to stress and anxiety. Some people may experience symptoms such as nausea, headaches or dizziness as a reaction to odour, even when the substances that cause those smells are themselves not harmful to health.
Additional advice for people with existing health conditions
Smoke can worsen existing health problems like asthma. People who suffer asthma should make sure they always carry their inhaler while the fire flare-ups continue or when weather conditions lead to renewed exposure.
Anyone with an existing health condition such as asthma might need to use their medicines more frequently, but should not use them more than prescribed and should contact their GP or NHS 111 if they think this would be the case.
What are the next steps?
Kirklees Council, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service and the Environment Agency can now put into place their joint plan to start removing waste from the site in greater volumes to help fight the fire.
The only feasible way of accessing the fire is to remove waste from the site to create a full firebreak.
The Council is working with our waste management contractors SUEZ to plan this work and we have started the preliminary work under emergency powers. This has included removal of an unsafe building, topographic surveys and waste analysis.
We will also be removing the standing water, as soon as possible, as this is the main source of smell on the site.
We have been advised that unauthorised people have been accessing the site. This represents a safety risk for those involved. Therefore, we will be providing a security presence on the site.
For health and safety reasons the public right of way next to the site has been closed.
Our Public Health Team and Environmental Health Team are working to assess the potential health risks associated with the removal of the waste on the site.
The Fire Service are attending the site four times per day to ensure that the fire is not spreading.
When work to remove the waste starts our aim is to keep disruption to a minimum and keep residents and businesses updated on a regular basis on progress. Regular updates will be posted on this website.