ABERDEENSHIRE Council is to finally act to extinguish a fire that has been burning in a smouldering giant pile of wood waste at a rural recycling centre since last summer.
The fire at at Keenan’s Recycling Centre in New Deer, near Turriff, has been smouldering since last June after it was believed to have been sparked by spontaneous combustion inside the 500-tonne pile of wood chippings.
Last year council chiefs decided to allow the fire to burn itself out, despite complaints from a local resident, Phil Hemsley, who said that he and his family were having to wear face masks, depending on which direction the smoke was blowing.
Aberdeenshire Council insisted there was no risk to public health from the smoke generated by the deep-seated fire of wood material.
But the local authority has now announced that, following a multi-agency meeting and on-site risk assessment of the burning pile, steps will now be taken to tackle the smouldering material at the recycling centre A council spokeswoman said: “The material has been allowed to continue to smoulder undisturbed in the interests of public health and the environment. Monitoring work carried out by SEPA indicated that there was no significant risk to public health and the amount of smoke generated by the deep-seated fire has continued to decrease over time.
“However, the multi-agency group has taken the decision that the material can now begin to be safely tackled. Sections of the material will be removed, spread out and allowed to cool down naturally, thus speeding up the process with a view to eventually extinguishing the complete pile.”
She continued: “This work will commence in the next week or so and residents will be issued with letters to inform them of what will happen. Dust emissions may occur and levels of smoke may also rise temporarily. Keenan’s Recycling Ltd will be mindful of wind direction when undertaking the work to avoid affecting nearby properties.”
Councillor Norman Smith, the chairman of the multi-agency group, said: “We are now at a stage where all agencies are in agreement that some of the material can be safely removed from the pile and extinguished.
“We hope it will reassure residents that we are doing all we can to rectify the situation as soon as possible, while ensuring that we protect people’s health and well-being.”
Mr Hemsley, a refrigeration engineer, welcomed the decision. He said:”The method they are suggesting they are going to use is the method that we have been suggesting that they use all along. Providing it is suitably risk assessed, I don’t think there is any danger to people and health locally - certainly no more danger than there is to leave the fumes and the smoke spewing into the atmosphere as they are.
“The amount of smoke and fumes we have had to put up with this fire has been absolutely horrendous.”
The organisations involved in the multi agency group are Aberdeenshire Council’s Environmental Health Service, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Grampian Fire and Rescue Service and NHS Grampian.