This report provides Joint Waste Committee with an update on the performance of the Phase A and Phase B Contracts procured and managed by the South London Waste Partnership.
The Contract Manager introduced the report which provided a summary of the contracts awarded by the South London Waste Partnership. A briefing note from Viridor in relation to the fire near the Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) was also appended to the report.
It was noted that the 9% of visitors to the Household Reuse and Recycling Centres (HRRC) were reporting wait times of more than ten minutes which had been largely due to seasonal influences, such as Bank Holidays, and maintenance being undertaken at sites. Officers confirmed that managing performance at HRRCs remained challenging and continued to be monitored on a monthly basis. It was suggested that reviews of site layouts and improved ID checks at the gates may improve waiting times.
Members noted that there had been a 10% reduction in residual waste which provided a combined saving of £500k for the Partnership, which was welcomed.
Members queried whether the Partnership had received a large volume of contact from residents in relation to the fire near the ERF site in Beddington, and were informed that the Partnership had not received a large number of questions. The Chair stated that he had received a number of questions through social media to which he had responded that it was important to wait for the official report, but that it would be important for Viridor to be held to account and ensure lessons were learnt.
The Chair welcomed Councillor Mattey, Beddington North ward councillor, to speak to the Committee. Councillor Mattey stated that he had been contacted by a number of residents who were concerned about the impact of the fire which had been easily seen by those in the area. Councillor Mattey stated that residents had raised concerns regarding acrid smelling fumes and dry throats.
Members were informed that a former fire officer had spoken at a Council meeting at Sutton Council who had stated that mattresses release a poison (sodium cyanide) when burnt, which had caused concern to residents. Councillor Mattey stated that a press release had been issued by Viridor a few hours after the fire had started and which described it as being a small fire. This press release had been shared by Sutton Council, however residents reported large plumes of smoke and the press release was not considered sufficient to alleviate concerns. It was stated that it was important to not trivialise issues, and it was further suggested that the Partnership should develop a protocol to respond appropriately to such incidents, such as an emergency number for residents to call.
Councillor Mattey suggested that questions should be asked on what had caused the fire and how it could be avoided in future. It was important to ensure lessons were learnt and that there are no further fires at the site.
The Chair agreed that an incident like the fire should be an opportunity to learn, and that it was important that information shared with residents was correct and timely. As such, it was suggested that consideration should be given to whether the Partnership should lead on communications on instances like this, and not individual councils, to ensure there was a consistent and accurate message.
The Strategic Partnership Manager stated that was important to ensure the Fire Service, Environment Agency and Viridor completed their reports before the Partnership commented as it was imperative that all information was available. It was confirmed, however, that the fire was located in the waste transfer station which is permitted separately from the ERF. Members were also informed that there was an existing hotline for residents to call if they had any queries.
RESOLVED: To note the contents of the report.