Machine fire suspected in waste blaze

 

A FIRE in a machine is suspected to have been the source of a blaze at a recycling plant that the fire service says may not be fully extinguished until tomorrow.

Damage to the warehouse, which contained 700 tonnes of commercial dry waste, will not be known for some time but is expected to run to several hundred thousand euro. There were no injuries at the Co Meath plant.

“There is absolutely no hazardous or toxic waste whatsoever at all in it,” said general manager of the Panda Waste Services plant Brian McCabe.

“Obviously the smoke is going out there and I am sure it is causing a lot of nuisance and we apologise to all our neighbours for it.”

The fire service said they had worked to prevent risk of pollution to groundwater or streams.

The smoke, which was heavy at times, billowed around the general area yesterday and out on to the main Dublin to Derry road. Local people kept their windows closed to keep out the smoke.

The plant is at Beauparc, 5km south of Slane and the same distance west of Newgrange.

“There appears to have been substantial damage caused,” Garda Supt Michael Devine, Navan, said. “But we are satisfied it was accidental damage resulting from a small fire in a machine”.

Pádraig Ó Longaigh, acting chief fire officer for Meath Fire and Rescue Service, said the service responded at about 11.35pm on Wednesday to what it first thought was a machinery fire.

“It turned out it was bigger,” he said and spread from the machine, believed to be a shredder, “to the actual compacted commercial waste in the warehouse”.

The plant is approximately 100m by 40m. At the peak of the fire there were eight fire units from across the county fighting it.

“The big concern was the water run-off,” Mr Ó Longaigh added. “Nobody would say it was a good idea to let it run into the ground water system, particularly as we are dealing with refuse.

“We are not taking any chances and we have been containing it.”

The Environmental Protection Agency had regional enforcement officer David Flynn on site and he was liaising with the fire service.

Locals who oppose plans by Panda Waste Services to develop an anaerobic digestion facility at Beauparc, which would produce gas and provide power to the national grid, said the fire was proof that their concerns were well-founded.

“I feel sick, scared and am wondering is this what the future holds for me and my children,” said Theresa Outram, an asthma sufferer who lives across the road from the facility near Slane.

She is supporting the Boyne Valley Awareness Group that claims the new facility would be more hazardous because it would be producing gas which is far more volatile in the event to a fire.

Panda Waste has been in the waste business since 1990 and is one of the largest operators in the country. The company employs 440 people at five locations in Meath and Dublin.