Parish worries about safety of piles of scrap
GUERNSEY RECYCLING’s storage of scrap metal ‘is compliant with waste licence conditions’, the company’s managing director has said, after St Sampson’s senior constable raised concerns about scrap metal being piled ‘twice as high’ as the sight screen behind the graveyard.
Paul Le Pelley, who is also the chairman of the parish cemeteries committee, lodged a complaint with Environmental Health six weeks ago due to what he said were persistent issues with how high the scrap metal was being stacked.
These concerns were exacerbated by the massive fire at the site last Friday, which Guernsey Recycling suspect was caused by lithium batteries that were brought into the yard.
‘Around four years ago, the late Rob Broome [the-then senior constable] and myself went to talk to the owners to raise the concerns of people using the St Sampson’s Church graveyard and working in there,’ said Deputy Le Pelley.
‘Our concerns as parish constables were that we wanted to be absolutely certain that everything was organised on a safety level.’
‘In the end, the company put up some wire mesh, not as a safety barrier, but as a sight screen so people wouldn’t see it is a backdrop if they were at the church.
‘The company paid for it with the understanding that it wouldn’t go any higher than that.
‘However, six weeks ago the pile was extremely high, twice as high as the height of the screens and at least two cars were balanced well off the ground.
‘We asked Environmental Health to check if everything was safe or not,’ said Deputy Le Pelley.
‘I had two members of staff there on Friday who were extremely close to the boundary. If the base had been corrupted or destabilised it would have put my workers at risk.’
Guernsey Recycling managing director Michael Grime said their storage of scrap metal was within their operating agreement.
‘We have lots of contact with the [Environmental Health] officers over how we operate and they have been here for the past number of days after the fire on Friday. They are more than happy that we are compliant with our waste licence conditions.’
Mr Grime added that the company took seriously the need to be good neighbours with the church.
Environmental health and pollution regulation director Tobin Cook confirmed that the authority had received and acted upon the complaint.
‘Following the receipt of a complaint, the site operators were contacted in the first instance and subsequently the site was visited,’ he said.
‘Our team are in discussions with the site operators about how waste is stored within their premises.
‘I cannot comment on the height or nature of stacked material during the incident as the fire was preventing access to the immediate area at that time.
‘We have visited the site following the incident and further visits will be made as the site returns back to routine operations.
‘The comments have been noted and these will be addressed whilst the site is being cleared and the site resumes normal business.’
Deputy Le Pelley did not believe it was secure to have such a facility in its current location due to its proximity to fuel storage and to the graveyard.
‘That whole area needs to be reviewed with a very fine toothcomb,’ he said.
Mr Grime said the company been at its current location for a a quarter of a decade.
‘We are in an industrial part of the island and we have been operating here for well over 25 years,’ he said in reply.
Deputy Le Pelley said the douzaine will have ‘serious discussions’ about last week’s fire at its next meeting.
He thanked the emergency services who had helped to keep members of the public from accessing the graveyard while the fire was raging.
‘I went down to the church at about 9.20 after being advised that there was a fire on-site. I got there at about half past and went to the churchyard.
‘It was always going to be a sightseers’ paradise because of how close it was and I asked if any police or civil protection officers could be released to check the graveyard and in fairness that happened within half an hour.
‘I had two members of staff who were extremely close to the boundary. It just needed a wind change and we would have had all those fumes blowing in our direction.’S