Recycling plant blaze staff "abused"

By Antony Clay | 19/05/2017

Recycling plant blaze staff 'abused'
Universal Recycling fire, Kilnhurst

STAFF at a recycling plant which was the scene of a huge fire drama last week have been subjected to abuse since the blaze, it was claimed.

Claims that Universal Recycling staff had been on the receiving end of abuse were made at a public meeting on Monday to discuss the fire in Kilnhurst, which took hold in a pile of up to 500 tonnes of plastic last week.

No-one from the firm attended the meeting at Kilnhurst Community Resource Centre, which gave residents the chance to quiz a multi-agency panel with representatives of the police, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, Rotherham Borough Council and the Environment Agency.

The EA confirmed this week that it was talking to Universal Recycling’s management about fire prevention and pollution prevention measures.

Issues covered at Monday’s meeting included air pollution and the work of the emergency services in the wake of the fire, which investigators concluded was accidental.

Swinton councillor Ken Wyatt said of the claims of abuse: “There was mention of that and it really should not be happening. It’s not the workers’ fault. This abuse will not take it anywhere.”

He added: “I think the meeting was very useful and there are things that need to be taken away and followed up.

“The Environment Agency has been receiving different enquiries related to the site operation.”

It is understood that the Agency visited the Universal Recycling plant ten times in 2016, with the visits being mostly unannounced.

A spokesman for the Agency said it was normal to visit such sites, adding: “In the last 18 months, we have worked with the operator to make improvements to site operations to reduce noise and dust pollution, which included alterations to plant equipment. 

“The operator’s environmental permit was updated in 2012.

“At this time this did not include a requirement to prepare a Fire Prevention Plan as this specific requirement is only a recent addition to our national environmental permitting regime.  

“However, since then we have been reviewing various aspects of the company’s pollution prevention measures, including fire prevention, and have advised the company about measures it is required to take to reduce the risk of fire on its site.

“The fire affected a waste stockpile which we believe was compliant with our fire prevention guidance and measures including concrete block walls separating waste prevented it getting worse.

“As part of our investigations, we will be considering whether any action needs to be taken to further improve the activities on site that are regulated by the Environment Agency. 

“This investigation will also include the presence of aerosols on site.”

A spokeswoman for Public Health England said it was contributing to a question-and-answer information sheet for residents about the fire and its impact.

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