People are scared to open their doors in 'toxic zone'

Neil Dunne and Angela Driscoll from Simonswood Action Group in Kirkby
-Credit: (Image: Colin Lane/Liverpool Echo)

Residents are increasingly fearful of living in a "toxic zone" where they frequently have to keep their doors and windows closed.

For much of last week, the sky above Kirkby was filled with burning debris and a thick black smoke which could be seen for miles around. It is the latest in a series of environmental incidents which is causing distress for local residents who are fearful of the potential health implications.

This distress has now been magnified after two large-scale fires erupted on two different industrial estates in and around Knowsley, beginning with an incident on Saturday, June 29.

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Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service were called to Pingwood Lane in Kirkby where they found seven articulated lorries on fire. Just three days later, emergency services were called to the scene of an industrial fire at a recycling centre on Wilson Road in Huyton.

As a result of both incidents, plumes of black smoke and a toxic smell plagued the area for days and affected thousands of people across Knowsley and parts of Lancashire. The environmental and health risk was severe enough to prompt three major local authorities to instruct residents to keep all windows and doors shut.

Black smoke smoke over Huyton after recycling centre fire
Black smoke smoke over Huyton after recycling centre fire -Credit:Copyright Unknown

The fires are part of a wider environmental concern as residents have lodged complaints for over a year about foul smelling odours emanating from industrial sites just outside Kirkby.

A spokesperson for Knowsley Council said: “Prior to the incidents this week, we have shared significant concerns with relevant bodies including the Environment Agency regarding the safety and management of both of the sites where the fires have taken place.

“For some time we have had concerns over how (the industrial estates) are being managed. And specifically the negative environmental impact this is having on our residents in Kirkby – which is just adjacent to these sites.

“In terms of the Wilson Road site we have been concerned about the volumes of waste being stored and have raised these concerns with the Environment Agency who regulate the site and are able to take enforcement action."

Last week, a group of residents met in The Railway pub in Kirkby to discuss the ongoing problems and try and work towards a solution. Neil Dunne is one of the organisers of the event. He said: "It feels like we are living in a toxic zone where our health is being put at risk.

"The black smoke just raised the same alarms over local pollution fears. Pollution levels in Kirkby are very worrying and lung health in Kirkby is generally poor. This creates more problems as people get older."

The ECHO has attempted to reach the operators of the industrial estates for comment.

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