Frustrations of residents living near ‘burning tip’

The still smouldering scene at Swarland Brickworks ,Thrunton.
The still smouldering scene at Swarland Brickworks ,Thrunton.

Residents living near the scene of a major fire that is still burning have vented their fury about the seeming lack of progress and health fears.

The former Swarland Brickworks site at Thrunton was ravaged by a blaze on Tuesday, September 3, as tonnes of shredded carpet went up in flames.

But more than two months later, the wreckage is still smouldering, causing smoke and foul smells to drift across nearby homes.

And representatives of Northumberland County Council, Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service, Public Health England and the Environment Agency all gathered in Bolton Village Hall last Wednesday for a public meeting.

It was chaired by Sir Alan Beith MP, who said he was there in a neutral capacity, but added: “I’m not in the least neutral about something needing to be done.”

Carole Cross, from Thrunton Residents Action Group, which organised the meeting, began by reading a statement from the group.

“We are now into day 72 of the fire and we are still in the same position, living next door to a burning tip and still suffering the consequences,” she said.

“We are extremely concerned about our health and the effects of breathing in polluted air, the stench of the burning carpets and the long-term risks to our health from the presence of toxins or other harmful particles in the smoke which as yet have not been identified.”

Kate Roe, deputy chief executive of the county council, read a statement on behalf of the incident control team. “We fully accept that the ongoing impact on the local community is a source of frustration and concern and is distressing,” she said.

Residents at the meeting raised a number of issues, but one of their key demands was that a full smoke analysis is carried out.

The main issue relating to the extinguishing of the fire is that the site sits on top of a water supply, which could become contaminated by run-off. At present, they are trying to tackle the fire with misting equipment, but at at some point a decision may need to be taken to sacrifice the current supply and install a new water network.

Locals were full of praise for site owner Chris Blythe, who has been working hard to try to resolve the situation, but they were highly critical of site operator Blackwater North East.