4 August 2020 by James Langley

Cause of Beddington fire remains unknown

A report published by the London Fire Brigade has concluded that the cause of a fire at Viridor’s energy from waste (EfW) plant in Beddington, South London, on 11 July 2019 remains unknown.

Details of the report were discussed at a meeting of the South London Waste Partnership (SLWP) joint committee on 23 July.

A fire broke out in a waste transfer station at Viridor’s Beddington plant on 11 July 2019

The SLWP noted, however, that following a review of CCTV footage that the London Fire Brigade concurred with Viridor’s conclusion that the fire originated in a pile of waste being moved by a front loader.

An incident report of Viridor’s own was also provided to the meeting. A Viridor spokesperson said: “Following the waste transfer station fire in July 2019, Viridor has conducted a full internal investigation alongside the Environment Agency and London Fire Brigade.

“This report has examined the events of the incident and Viridor’s response to the fire, ongoing engagement with the Environment Agency, a causation review and the likely causes of the fire using Viridor’s industry experience of operating a number of facilities across the UK.”

Viridor has categorised the fire as a ‘significant incident’. This means it is considered less serious than a ‘major incident’, which would require it to be reported to the Health and Safety Executive as a ‘dangerous occurrence’ under 2013 RIDDOR regulations.

Fire

A fire broke out in a waste transfer station at Viridor’s energy from waste (EfW) plant in Beddington, south London, on 11 July 2019 (see letsrecycle.com story).

Four fire engines and around 25 firefighters attended the scene.

In their incident report Viridor wrote: “The Beddington WTS fire was a significant event that was managed safely and responsibly through a partnership of the London Fire Brigade and Viridor Operations team with further assistance from the South London Waste Partnership and Veolia.”

Non-compliance

At the time of the fire, part of the waste transfer station was being used for the delivery, inspection and storage of residual bulky waste destined for the neighbouring Beddington EfW facility, the SLWP says.

Four fire engines and around 25 firefighters attended the scene of the fire

While this residual bulky waste material was permitted to be stored on site, Viridor were required to provide the Environment Agency with written notification if the material was to be stored in the waste transfer station tunnels.

Viridor report that verbal notification was provided to the Environment Agency, but written notification was not, according to the SLWP.

The Environment Agency considered this to be a breach of the permit and non-compliance which could have had a minor environmental impact, the SLWP says.

Review

The Viridor spokesperson said: “As part of the review, Viridor now ensures that any bulky waste is delivered to the pre-treatment building within the ERF complex as a priority and shredded.

“If the waste transfer station is used for this material, regular thermographic checks are undertaken on the material during the working day.

“Material will usually be removed at the end of each day to the ERF or transferred to an appropriate, licensed facility if the shredder is unavailable.

“If, for any reason, material must be left in the waste transfer station at the end of a day, the transfer station is equipped with flame detection equipment which will inform the ERF control room or unit manager if there is a fire.”

Contract

Viridor South London was awarded a 25-year multi-million-pound contract for the treatment and disposal of residual waste on behalf of the SLWP in November 2012 (see letsrecycle.com story).

The Beddington EfW processes unrecyclable waste for the councils which make up the South London Waste Partnership

Waste is collected under contract from the SLWP from within the boroughs of Croydon, Sutton, Merton and Kingston by Veolia. Material collected by Veolia is treated by Viridor at the Beddington facility.

Between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2020, the SLWP delivered a little more than 202,000 tonnes of residual waste to Beddington. This is a drop in residual waste of just under 3% when the data is compared to the same period last year.

Viridor South London has an annual landfill diversion target, and in 2019/20 this target is 8.66%. Ninety-five per cent of the residual waste delivered by SLWP partner boroughs was treated at Beddington, with 5% landfilled.

Beddington

Viridor’s operations division announced it had assumed control of the Beddington facility from CNIM, the contractor tasked with building the plant, in December 2019 (see letsrecycle.com story).

The original deadline for the plant to be operational was the end of 2018, and it has been processing waste since the autumn of that year.

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