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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

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Residents angry at slow clean-up after Carlisle waste site fire

Anxious residents have slammed the clean-up operation after a devastating fire that they say has left them having to endure sickening smells.

Wastre fire photo
A firefighter tackles the blaze

Debris from the blaze that gutted part of Cumbria Waste Management’s complex on the northern edge of Carlisle was continuing to smoulder on Tuesday.

People living nearby have been assured that there’s no risk to their health from the fumes that have continued to blow near their homes.

But they’ve raised questions about whether – six days on from the fire – enough had been done to sort the problem as quickly as possible, with some claiming they’re now suffering side effects.

A councillor has taken up the issue amid concerns about the time being taken on the clean-up operation in the aftermath of the Kingmoor recycling centre fire.

Although environmental health officers have allayed fears about particles of asbestos being in the air, residents in Lowry Hill said the stench in the area continued to be unpleasant.

“It hits the back of your throat. People are telling me they’ve head bad heads and sore eyes,” one man said.

Another added: “The county council say they’re doing all they can, but surely they can do more. This is a lot to put up with.”

Bosses at Cumbria Waste Management said the building gripped by the fire contained “principally cardboard”, but some plastic was also inside.

Councillor Gareth Ellis, who represents the Belah ward on Carlisle City Council, has been contacted by several people with concerns.

He praised firefighters’ quick response to get the initial blaze under control, but hopes the entire fire risk can be removed as soon as possible.

“Fortunately there’s no asbestos in the air,” Mr Ellis said.

“There’s an acrid plastic burning smell coming over St Ann’s and Lowry Hill. So many days on now, people want to know what’s going on. This really isn’t good enough. People are having to breathe in the smoke from this burning plastic.

“People in Lowry Hill have had no information about whether they have to continue to take precautions such as closing their windows.”

That was the advice given to people nearby as the blaze – complex for firefighters to tackle because of the amount and nature of the materials involved – reached its peak on Thursday.

A spokesman for Cumbria County Council, which owns Cumbria Waste Management, as well as being responsible for the county’s fire and rescue service. said due to the density of the material involved it was still causing problems.

Fire crews had been damping down and the situation was under control, he added. It was still smouldering yesterday but a lot less than it had been.

“Fire crews are trying to put it out as quickly as possible,” he said.

Such was the scale of the damage to the storage building involved that it will have to be destroyed. Staff based in other buildings on the site have, however, been able to return to work.

On the clean-up operation, a council spokesman added: “Quite a lot of fibre glass and metal sheeting has been cleaned up now. Environmental Health also did some checks around the neighbourhood and nearby properties and have concluded that there is no risk to public health.”

Cumbria Waste Management has put into place contingency plans whereby recycling can continue at their other sites at Hespin Wood, near Rockliffe, and Lillyhall, near Workington.

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