Fire - An Unlikely Cause of Environmental Pollution?

You would be forgiven for thinking that the risk of a fire in an organisation would cause more damage to the immediate property than the environment.

However, think again. Not only can the fire itself cause damage to flora and fauna, the firewater from extinguishing the fire can cause incredible damage. Companies must ensure procedures are in place to minimise the potential risk of damaging the environment as a result of the contaminated water. Not only this, air pollution is also a consideration. Pollutants in the air from fires can travel many kilometers causing damage far and wide to many ecosystems.

Case Studies

Metal Finishers fire water run-off costs company over £160,000

In May 2013 Abbey Metals Ltd, a metal finishing company situated near to the River Anker, was ordered to pay over £160,000 in fines and costs after a fire broke out in the building in April 2010.

Despite firefighters best efforts to contain the fire water using EA supplied measures, fire water entered the River Anker. The fire water was contaminated with a mixture of hazardous substances used in metal treatment.

The company's emergency plan had failed as there were

a) inadequate arrangements on site to contain the fire water

b) no prior arrangements to access the sewerage system for emergency storage

c) no prior arrangements to tanker the contaminated water off-site.

The company has since updated their emergency plan but at a cost.

EA Seeks £28,000 in costs from HGV Firm After Lorry Caught Fire

On July 18 2015 a lorry was traveling on the M6 motorway when it caught fire and caused the motorway to be closed for several hours and releasing chemicals stored on the HGV into nearby watercourses. Trybutyl phosphate, a toxic chemical to fish, caused the death of more than 150 fish in the River Penk. Fish and wildlife in the River Sow were also affected.

Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service commented that sometimes fires can start from the brake systems on the lorry but investigations are on-going. It is thought that a motorbike that was being carried in the middle of the vehicle caught fire. The battery was potentially left on and it ignited.

The EA worked hard to dilute the effects of the chemical and to stop the spread. They are seeking to recoup over £28,000 from the lorry owners under the "polluter pays" principle.