EA Publishes Responses To Revised Waste Fire Guidance Consultation

fire11-472x312-472x312-1-472x312The Environment Agency (EA) has published responses to its consultation into the revised guidance for fire prevention plans for waste site operators.

The summary of responses comes almost two months after the revised guidance itself was published in the back end of July.

New Fire Prevention Plan guidance was published after a three month consultation with industry, local authorities, regulators and the general public.

The consultation saw an encouraging level of interest with responses received from a broad range of stakeholders (161 responses). These responses were fed into the decisions made by the EA when updating the guidance, it says.

It’s hoped the revised guidance will help reduce the numbers of fires at waste sites in England.

Four-Hour Burn Time

Concern was raised earlier in the year by the Wood Recyclers Association (WRA), which urged the EA to reconsider its proposal of a maximum four hour burn time for fires at waste sites.

Although the EA claims there would be exceptions in certain circumstances, the Wood Recyclers Association (WRA) fears too much emphasis is being placed on a burn time limit.

During an RWM session last week, the EA attempted to clarify the concern around the time limit, by saying that the four hour burn time is an objective and is “not an absolute deadline that you will be held to account over.”

They also said that the four hour burn time, along with the other objectives in the guidance, are not concrete and may not even be necessary when taking individual site environments into account.

For example, the four hour burn time is partly aimed at reducing smoke and therefore potential harm to residents. If the site is not located in a high residential area, then this time may not be necessary condition.

“I will be interested to read the reasons why those views were ignored and to hopefully finally get some scientific evidence to back up the EA’s decision to see this remain in the document.”

The EA senior advisors stressed that plans would be treated on a case by case basis.

Andy Hill, Wood Recyclers Association, said: “I am pleased to see the consultation results have finally been released, although I would like to have seen this at the same time as the FPPv3 was published. We need time to review the full document in full but initially I can see that the four hour burn time has remained despite an overwhelming majority of respondents commenting against it.

“I will be interested to read the reasons why those views were ignored and to hopefully finally get some scientific evidence to back up the EA’s decision to see this remain in the document.”

The first question in the consultation asked: “Do you agree with our approach for a maximum acceptable duration for sheltering to be 3 to 4 hours?”

Of the 161 respondents, 116 (72%) replied to this question and of those; 27 replied ‘yes’, 73 replied ‘no’, 16 replied ‘don’t know’ and 138 respondents provided comments (irrespective of whether or not they had answered the question).

The majority of respondents from business and trade associations did not support the objective to limit the duration of sheltering to 4 hours.

However in reviewing the comments, the EA said it was also apparent that there was “significant misunderstanding” around whether this was achievable and also why it was necessary.

In contrast, the majority of other organisations and emergency responders supported the objective to reduce the maximum duration of sheltering.

Some respondents stated that the burn time is dependent on the nature of fire, the waste involved and the weather. Another respondent commented that empirical data indicates that it takes 24 hours to burn 1 tonne of plastic.

Public Health England (PHE) provided a comprehensive and detailed response to this specific question which states: “We agree but consider the 3-4 hour objective to be an aspirational target for active firefighting, rather than representing a time at which sheltering strategies will become ineffective at protecting the wider public near to a site. It is important to make this distinction in the guidance too.”

For the full consultation CLICK HERE

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