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East London residents near toxic landfill site could face 'months of fires'

Firefighters at Launders Lane while it burns during the summer of 2020 (LFB)
Firefighters at Launders Lane while it burns during the summer of 2020 (LFB)

Children living near a landfill site that has been burning on and off for 20 years could be forced to stay inside this summer due to “months of fires,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan has been warned.

A toxic fire at Launders Lane in Rainham, east London, has routinely burned in the summer months for two decades.

Nearby residents have complained the site has caused nosebleeds, breathing problems, coughing fits, and burns from walking on the ground near the site, London Assembly member Hina Bokhari has said.

The London Fire Brigade has reportedly attended over 70 fires at the site since 2018 and the organisation has said the site poses a significant risk to its firefighters due to its unstable nature.

Ms Bokhari has said the site is “potentially major health hazard in the area” and has asked Mr Khan to put pressure on Havering Council and the Environment Agency to solve the issue.

The Liberal Democrat said: “Air pollution of this kind could have serious long-term impacts on people living in the area, especially young children, many of whom have to stay indoors when the fires are burning.

“It may only be January, but summer will come around fast and residents will be faced with the impact of months of fires yet again if this issue is not tackled. We cannot allow human health to continue to be placed at risk like this.

“We also cannot continue to expect London’s firefighters to continue to put their lives at risk tackling fires at this site year in year out when the problem is resolvable.”

Responding to a question about the issue at Mayor’s Question Time, Mr Khan said residents living nearby “deserve progress to be made”.

He added: “This is an unregulated dumping ground. What local residents have been facing is the consequences of a lack of responsibility from the landowner.”

Ms Bokhari, who visited the site in October, said the dumping site is roughly 20 feet high and added that the ground bounced and was “full of massive craters”.

An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “We have provided advice and guidance to help deal with the site and will continue to do so, but ultimately Havering Council is the lead authority on regulating the site and for monitoring air quality.

“We continue to be part of the steering group on this issue and will support Havering Council where we can as they lead on the response.”

Havering Council has said it is liaising with the landowner to “remove the unlawful material on the site as quickly as possible”.

The council said it is considering enforcement action at the site and it is working with the landowner to conduct soil sampling tests to understand the contamination.

A spokesperson for Havering Council, said: “We have also been working with Imperial College London to analyse air quality data for the area, which has shown that, over the last 12 months PM2.5 and NO2 levels across Rainham have stayed below the UK annual air quality limits, and are comparable with other areas of Havering and adjacent boroughs.

“There is evidence to show that air pollution at this level can have an impact on health, however little is known about the impact of short term exposure.”