A dump of more than 100,000 waste tyres on the flight path to Glasgow Airport has been identified as a fire risk that could prevent athletes and dignitaries from flying in for the Commonwealth Games in July.
But attempts by the government’s Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) to reduce the risk by removing the tyres have so far failed, prompting calls for a tough crackdown.
Piles of old tyres are a recognised fire hazard, with at least ten major fires being reported across the UK within the last two years (see table below). Combustion of the rubber can produce large clouds of thick, black smoke making it dangerous for aircraft.
Sepa has assessed an unlicenced waste tyre store on Lyon Road in Linwood in Renfrewshire “as a potential fire risk ahead of the coming Commonwealth Games”. The site is “of concern to the Scottish government,” said a report to Sepa’s board meeting last week by the chief executive, James Curran.
“This site is politically as well as environmentally sensitive as it is on the flight path of Glasgow Airport,” he pointed out. Sepa has slapped an enforcement notice on the site’s operator to remove the tyres, but the deadline has had to be extended to 31 May.
Sepa is also demanding that the operator apply for a waste management licence. “By the end of March only 17,000 tyres had been removed as compared to the 47,000 stated in the company’s rescue plan,” Curran said.
According to Mary Church, head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland, the site would be a “potential legal nightmare” if it ended up in court. “Illegal tyre dumping is becoming a major problem and this site typifies both the kind of major hazard that can build up and the failure of waste companies to deal with that hazard,” she said.
“Sepa has given the company a second chance to put things right but severe action will be needed if they do not deliver this time. With less than 11 weeks to go to the Commonwealth Games, sorting this site is doubly urgent.”
Sepa pointed out that the management of the Linwood site changed late last year. “There is no waste management authorisation issued by Sepa in place for operation of waste management activities on this site,” Sepa’s head of operations, Kenny Boag, told the Sunday Herald.
“Sepa has now required the operator to apply for a waste management licence, in addition to continuing to take necessary enforcement action to mitigate risk.”
According to Boag, there were currently estimated to be around 100,000 tyres on the site. “The operator has submitted an action plan to remove tyres from the site by the end of May 2014,” he said.
“If the operator fails to remove the tyres by this time Sepa will consider further enforcement action in line with our enforcement policy. We are continuing to actively pursue the removal of the tyres and are in regular contact with both the operator, and other relevant parties, to explore all avenues for resolving this issue.”
The Scottish government said it was being kept informed of the situation. “The Scottish government is supporting Sepa’s efforts to protect the environment, the interests of the local community and to mitigate any risk to events like the Commonwealth Games,” said a government spokeswoman.
“We are working with Sepa to give them the enforcement tools they need to tackle cases such this in a robust, proportionate and timely manner to better protect Scotland’s environment and communities.”
The site’s operator, a new company called Clann Waste Management, did not respond to a request to comment.
Ten recent tyre fires
27 April 2014: fire involving 30 tyres on the A449 near Kidderminster
19 March 2014: burning pile of tyres in Marton in Cheshire
16 March 2014: large pile of tyres on fire in Horsham in West Sussex
19 February 2014: 60 tyres on fire near the M6 in Walsall
16 January 2014: a fire involving 15,000 tonnes of tyres at a recycling plant in Sherburn-in-Elmet near Leeds produced a cloud of smoke that could be seen from space
26 August 2013: more than 5,000 tyres went up in smoke at a garage store in Wolverhampton
9 August 2013: major tyre fire in Chichester
2 May 2013: massive tyre fire at Matching Green airfield in Essex
21 August 2012: a stack of tyres caught fire in the London borough of Hounslow
27 May 2012: tyre fire near Bootle