Firefighters work to extinguish recycling centre fire; air pollution alert remains in place

Firefighters are slowly making progress extinguishing a fire burning in nine large compost piles at the Lismore Recycling & Recovery Centre.

Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) firefighters are working with Lismore City Council to safely extinguish the smouldering fire. They are using heavy machinery and five bulk water carriers to pull the compost piles apart and saturate with water.

FRNSW has indicated it could be a number of days or even weeks before the fire can be fully extinguished.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is working with FRNSW and Lismore City Council to address the impact of the fire on waste management and air quality.

The North Coast Public Health Unit is urging people with heart and respiratory conditions to take caution, with high air pollution levels in some areas of northern NSW as a result of the recycling centre fire as well as significant bushfire activity around the region.

Assistant Director of Public Health North Coast, Greg Bell, said children, older adults and people with heart and lung conditions are most susceptible to the effects of air pollution and excessive smoke.

“If you have asthma you should follow your Asthma Action Plan and take your relieving medication where necessary and if symptoms get worse, seek medical advice,” Mr Bell said.

“Smoke may aggravate existing heart and lung conditions and cause irritated eyes, coughing and wheezing. Stay indoors, close windows and follow your health plan.

“To minimise any effects of smoke or air pollution, people should also consider avoiding vigorous exercise, seeking out air-conditioned premises and even consider moving away from the direct path of smoke whilst fires are still active.”

People with asthma who can see or smell smoke can collect free respirators at the Bunnings trade desk by showing ID with a residential address within or around Lismore.

Insurance assessors have now begun preliminary investigations to assess the extent of damage to the Materials Recovery Facility.

A full damage assessment and an extensive clean-up of the site will need to be undertaken before the Lismore Recycling & Recovery Centre can reopen to the public, which could take a number of weeks.

There are currently delays to waste collection across the city, particularly with green organics bins. Residents are asked to be patient and leave bins out until they are emptied.

“The collection of green waste is complicated by the yellow crazy ant exclusion zones still in place in and around Lismore,” Council’s Executive Director of Infrastructure Services Gary Murphy said.

“We are working with the EPA and the Department of Primary Industries to implement a solution but this is causing some delays to our collections.

“We urge residents to please be patient as we sort through these complex issues. Everyone is working their hardest to get the fire under control and services back to normal.”

Source: Lismore City Council