Update on Queens Mill Road waste site, Huddersfield
We are all working together to resolve the situation as safely and quickly as possible. Please find an update of our progress below.
Why is the site taking so long to clear?
Our priority is to ensure the safety of local residents, businesses and the teams working together on site.
The nature of the fire means that it is constantly moving through the waste pile. This means we need to clear the waste on the site in small, manageable sections. The West Yorkshire Fire Service and the removal contractors then test each pile for hazardous waste and extinguish any fires that start to alight. The Fire Service continue to be on site approximately 4 times per day.
Each waste pile is then checked again to make sure there is no hot waste before it is loaded onto the removal vans and transported to the landfill site. This controlled and safe approach takes time and may seem slow, but to rush the process could jeopordise the safety of local residents and businesses which is something we are not prepared to do.
As we are still in winter unpredictable weather conditions can also prevent progress:
- If there are high wind conditions we can’t transport the waste to the landfill site as the waste can blow away and litter the surrounding areas.
- If there are icy conditions on the road this can present an accident risk to the drivers, their vehicles and other pedestrians/drivers. We are monitoring the safety of the roads regularly before teams are instructed to go on site.
We have looked into putting more resources on site so we can remove greater volumes of waste and complete the process quicker. Unfortunately, all partners agree that it is logistically impossible to do this as there is not enough space to manoeuvre any more vehicles in such a confined space. As such we are using the maximum amount of vehicles we can without causing blockages, hindering progress or compromising the safety of our staff.
When do you expect to finish?
We are aiming to finish clearing the site between April to May 2017. This timescale is dependent upon what hazardous waste or further pockets of fire we may or may not unearth, and the weather conditions as mentioned above. The strong intention of all the partners is to get everything cleared permanently before the summer. We will continue to provide you with updates on our progress.
Up until Christmas, we removed 3,246 tonnes of waste. That’s the equivalent of about 13,500 wheelie bins. We still have about 7,700 tonnes to go, but we are getting there and, as mentioned above, our priority is to remove the waste safely. This can be a slow process but we are working as quickly as we can.
Environmental Health update
Air quality: We have done numerous air quality tests around the site – more than we would normally perform for a fire of this size. We continue to monitor this and will do until the fire is fully extinguished.
Odour: We appreciate that this has been one of the main concerns of the local residents and businesses. Although the West Yorkshire Fire Service continues to spray mists of water on the waste to reduce the odour, we appreciate that the smell is likely to linger until we have removed everything. There is nothing more that can be done to resolve this and that is why we are working very hard to clear the site as soon as we possibly can.
Litter control: We will have staff on site to ensure that litter is kept to a minimum and is not spread outside the perimeter of the site.
Security: Security continues to be on site and no recent incidents have been reported.
Could the fire affect my health?
Public Health England have given us the following advice on the potential health-related impacts of the fire.
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, people should contact their General Practitioner (GP) for medical advice, or phone NHS 111.
It is also worth noting that 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 is happening with the legal proceedings?
We have ongoing civil legal proceedings involving both individuals and companies involved in the running of the site on behalf of Hunter Group, together with the owner of part of the land.
Due to the land being sold by one of the Defendant’s in this action, the case due for a final hearing on 9 January 2017 had to be adjourned for this defendant to file a further witness statement in connection with the sale of the land. The court could not proceed with the hearing whilst the current evidence before the court did not give correct details of the ownership of the land.
Useful contact numbers:
Environment Agency: (03708) 506506. To report pollution incidents, please call 0800 807060.
For health advice please dial 111 or contact your GP.
Kirklees Council: (01484) 221000 and ask for the Environmental Health team or email firstname.lastname@example.org
West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service: (01274) 682311.
Police: In an emergency please dial 999; for non-emergencies dial 101.