Asbestos found at Rugeley farm fire

The Birmingham Mail has reported,

Health experts have issued advice to residents living near an ongoing fire in Staffordshire after asbestos was found at the site.

Around 1,000 tonnes of waste has been burning for more than two weeks at Oak Tree Farm in Slitting Mill, Rugeley.

The blaze, which began as a controlled burn of wood on September 5 , could not be fully extinguished by fire crews amid concerns over contamination of local water.

Staffordshire Fire And Rescue Service have since announced that some materials containing asbestos were discovered at the site on Tuesday, September 20.

Public Health England (PHE) have since issued a statement on the risk smoke from the site could pose to local residents.

“Experience from similar asbestos fires suggests that the likely public exposure will be very low and asbestos fibres are unlikely to be readily released into the smoke plume from asbestos containing material (ACM),” PHE said.

“This is particularly the case for asbestos cement, which is the type of asbestos discovered at Oak Tree Farm, but also applies to other types of ACM.

“Moreover the fire is of relatively low intensity which would also tend to limit the amount of fibres released into the atmosphere. Lastly, the material has been damped as a consequence of firefighting activities.

“If there was a significant amount of ACM discovered most of the risk to human health would be restricted to the immediate surrounding area where specialist clean-up operations would be required to safely dispose of the material.”

Breathing in air containing asbestos fibres can potentially lead to asbestos-related diseases, including cancers of the lungs and chest lining.

But PHE assured residents that Rugeley and other villages near Oak Tree Farm were very unlikely to be exposed to any significant levels of asbestos.

However, residents are still advised to stay out of the smoke and keep windows and doors closed.

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service have checked the smoke while specialist air quality monitoring equipment is to be installed by Cannock Chase District Council.

On Wednesday agencies monitoring the blaze agreed plans to cap the burning stack with soil to prevent firefighters being exposed to further risk turning over burning waste.

The process, which is expected to take the fire service two to four days to complete, will not put the fire out but will provide a fixed barrier to signficantly reduce the amount of smoke being released from the site.

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