3 April 2019 by Will Date

West Sussex HWRC fire ‘may burn for days’

A fire at a West Sussex council household waste recycling centre (HWRC) near Chichester may burn ‘for a number of days’, fire crews have warned.

UPDATE 4/4/2019: West Sussex council has confirmed that the fire is still ongoing at present, with both the HWRC and transfer station on site remaining closed. Materials including domestic waste, mixed dry recycling, bulky waste and paper and card have been involved in the fire.

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service are at the scene of the ongoing fire at the HWRC site at Westhampnett, which is run by Viridor, which began at around 8:25pm yesterday (2 April).

Fire crews were called to the Westhampnett HWRC after 8pm on Tuesday

On arrival, crews found a ‘developing’ fire in the main building of the centre, which appears to have sustained some damage from the blaze.

Following consultation with Environment Agency officers attending the scene, it was decided to allow the fire to burn in a controlled way and not use water, in order to prevent pollution to local water courses. This is being kept under close review, according to the Fire Service.

At the height of the fire four fire engines and the aerial ladder platform were at the scene.

Cause

In a statement, West Sussex council, appealed to residents to use alternative HWRC sites, with the Westhampnett site expected to be closed for a number of days.

It said: “The Westhampnett Household Waste and Recycling site is closed for the next few days at least and we ask residents in the Chichester area to avoid using any site if possible in the meantime.

“If necessary, the nearest alternative sites are Bognor Regis, which will be open seven days a week for the time being, Worthing, Billingshurst and Littlehampton.”

The cause of the fire is unknown and there have been no reported injuries, West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said.

In a statement, Viridor suggested that a lithium ion battery may have been the cause of the fire.

A company spokesperson said: “Viridor suspects that a likely cause is lithium ion batteries. These batteries are the main cause of waste site fires. They are commonly found in a variety of products, including mobile phones, toys, cameras, eCigarettes and laptop computers.

“Viridor and the county council thank the West Sussex Fire and Rescue Services for its ongoing assistance and ask the public to dispose of batteries responsibly at a household waste recycling centre and, as summer approaches, to ensure barbecue ashes have been to left to cool for at least 48 hours or thoroughly wet these ashes before placing out for collection.”

Lithium ion batteries have been linked to a number of fires in the waste sector recently and this week letsrecycle.com revealed that guidance is being drawn up in a bid to address the problem (see letsrecycle.com story).

The HWRC is one of 11 operated across the county operated by Viridor under a 25 recycling and waste management contract which began in 2004.

Viridor oversaw a revamp of the facility in 2006 which it said would ‘push recycling rates to new heights’ (see letsrecycle.com story). The site also houses a bulk transfer station.

In 2008, a fire destroyed a building at the Crawley HWRC destroyed a building at the facility (see letsrecycle.com story).

3/4/2019 updated 14:15 to include Viridor statement

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