Waste fire stink still blights Devizes families five months on

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: The fire at Wiltshire Waste (Recycling) at its peak. Picture by Stephen McGrath The fire at Wiltshire Waste (Recycling) at its peak. Picture by Stephen McGrath

Fed-up families in Devizes say they are living with the stink caused by a fire that is still smouldering five months after it started.

The fire at Wiltshire Waste (Recycling) on the A342 opposite Monument Hill on January 28 involved 400 tonnes of waste material including mixed plastics, domestic waste, and wood and compost, but despite efforts of staff at the site and fire fighters there is an estimated 120 tonnes still burning.

Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service opted to let the waste burn out of its own accord after an attempt earlier this month to extinguish some of the smouldering waste caused it to reignite, which produced large volumes of dark smoke.

Steven Edwards, 62, of Nursteed village, is frustrated that the material is still burning and blighting residents’ lives.

He said: “The smell is virtually on a daily basis, it depends on which way the wind is blowing. It seems to be more prominent in the evening. It’s an acrid smell and it does leave a taste in the mouth.

“Sometimes I don’t want to sit out in my garden because of the smell. In today’s modern world it beggars belief that a fire can’t be put out. Personally, if the answer is to have a day’s burning so it is finally extinguished I would favour that.”

Mike Owen, 56, of Massey Road, said: “I am frustrated at the lack of apparent urgency to tackle the problem. It’s not burning as bad as it was but we are still getting the smell.”

Deborah Noakes, landlady of the Fox and Hounds pub at Nursteed said they have to close the windows and door of the pub virtually every night but the smell has still driven customers away.

Mr Edwards, who works in NHS property services, and Mr Owen, a reserve officer in the RAF, have complained to Wiltshire Council’s public protection department.

Paul Mortimer, operations manager for the Grist Group, which owns the waste site, said the company is as frustrated as the residents.

He said: “The advice was it was better to leave it to burn itself out. That wasn’t really what we wanted to hear. We wanted it to be over sooner rather than later.

"The fire service is unable to predict how long it will smoulder for.

"Looking at the waste heap it is mostly ash and I would think it is very close to self extinguishing.”

An Environment Agency spokesman said: “Wiltshire Waste has not breached any of its licence conditions and has co-operated with the agency, Wiltshire Council and the fire service.

"The burning waste is on concrete within a fully contained drainage system, so there is no risk of local watercourses being polluted.”

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