A FACTORY owner fears a tip blaze in Ravensthorpe could be catastrophic for the area – and for taxpayers.
After a week of constant firefighting at the tip blaze, fire crews are still not at the seat of the fire.
Now George Wilson of GW Fibres, whose firm has neighboured the site for more than 20 years, says that his continual warnings to the Environment Agency went unheeded – and the public cost of the clean-up operation will now be ruinous.
Mr Wilson said: “Estimates say it could be £500 an hour at least to have the fire pumps working at this intensity.
“There were five here when it started and they’ve held a 24-hour presence for a week.
“It doesn’t take a genius to work out that someone is going to have to foot the bill here, and as far as I can see this process could take months.
“I’m just grateful to the firefighters because when it started our business could have gone up too but they prevented that.”
Firefighters have had to bring in specialist appliances to help them tackle the blaze, adding to the cost. At least one crew has been on site at any one time, with back-up units at various times over the past week.
Brigade sources say the costs are difficult to pinpoint but have to take into account costs of equipment as well as manpower.
Mr Wilson said he feared there were thousands of tonnes of refuse on the site to be shifted, with the bill for that put at many thousands of pounds.
And he echoed fears from people living nearby that rats leaving the rubbish site pose a major risk.
The Environment Agency has now confirmed it is investigating the possibility of a criminal prosecution.
On a tour around the perimeter of the Hinchcliffe Bros’ tip, Mr Wilson said: “This is not just a scrapyard fire, we are talking about a major incident.
“The supposed ‘waste transfer facility’ is just a shed and the rubbish has spilled out the back of it. The pit itself where the rubbish is burning is 30 feet deep.
“We’ve been asking the Environment Agency for 10 years to stop him doing what he’s doing”.
GW Fibres manager Nigel Jessop added: “The big question is why has the agency taken so long to do anything?
“Also, estimates about the rat problem haven’t gone far enough. As soon as workers leave here the rats come out, and if you can see hundreds of them on the site that’s a guarantee there are thousands of them in there.
“As this site gets taken apart for damping they have to have somewhere to go.”
Rubbish is now being painstakingly taken to a secondary site nearby to continue the process of damping down before it can be moved on.
Owner Roy Hinchcliffe has been ordered to clear the 200 metre tip.
Gerard Morris, Environment Agency manager for Yorkshire, said: “We served a suspension notice following our enforcement notices because of the amount of waste on the site.
“We are investigating possible criminal offences.
Mr Hinchcliffe was unavailable for comment.