Shotley/Harwich: Peninsular blighted by cloud of ‘acrid’ smoke from 4,000 tonne pile of smouldering wood-chips

Smoke from a wood-chip fire at Harwich International Port drifts across the Shotley Peninsular. Smoke from a wood-chip fire at Harwich International Port drifts across the Shotley Peninsular.

Andrew Hirst andrew.hirst@archant.co.uk
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
6:28 PM

Smoke from a 4,000 tonne pile of smouldering wood-chips has been making life a misery for people living down wind.

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Shotley Parish Council has been inundated with calls from concerned residents “severely affected by the hazy, acrid smoke,” billowing from Harwich International Port where the fire started early Friday morning.

Parish clerk Dina Bedwell said she had been “passed from pillar to post” in her attempts to find help resolving the problem and is calling for assurances from the authorities that measures have been taken to prevent the issue from returning.

“The parish council believes more effort should be made to extinguish the fire and does not accept that the only solution is to let it be burnt out,” she said.

The council has also expressed concerns for those with respiratory problems, young children and the elderly, labelling the medical advice - to keep windows and doors closed - as “not just impractical but unrealistic”.

Keiron Durrant, who works as a noise consultant at his home in Ganges Road, said the unpleasant smell had blighted the whole peninsular for the vast majority of the past four days.

“We had a two hour reprieve on Monday when the sky cleared and we could breathe normally again but then it returned just as bad,” he said.

The 41-year-old father-of-two says the smoke has been so thick that ships have been sounding their horns to navigate the local waters.

He believes the authorities’ response to the problem would have been more urgent if a larger settlement than Shotley had been affected.

“If this was blowing over Harwich or Dovercourt they’d be there 24 hours of the day trying to put it out and I think people here are a bit fed up that we’ve been left to deal with it,” he said.

Essex Fire and Rescue was called to the port shortly before 8am on Friday when they were confronted with a vast pile of burning chips 50 metres across and 20 metres tall at its highest point.

Two crews helped tackle the fire and a digger was used to break up the pile. They left the port at 2pm on Friday to allow the chips to burn in a “controlled way” but had to return on Saturday after it flared up again.

On Saturday evening, Essex Fire and Rescue handed control of the site back to Harwich Port Fire Service, which has been “working hard” to stop the smouldering 24 hours a day ever since.

“ Harwich International Port sincerely apologises for the inconvenience caused by the smoke from the wood fire and we have been working 24 hours per day since Saturday to resolve the situation,” a spokesman said.

“Following attendance by the county fire brigade we have had our own fire engine permanently on site and also contracted several excavators to stop the wood smoke as quickly as we possibly can.”

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