Landfill fire was ‘spontaneous’

Published 10:49 pm Thursday, January 24, 2013

A security guard making rounds as required spotted the fire at a recycling facility at the regional landfill in Suffolk on Monday, according to officials at the Southeastern Public Service Authority meeting Wednesday.

The guard made the call about 2:30 a.m. when he discovered plastic and aluminum material on fire inside the Bi-Metals Recycling LLC building, according to a city press release.

Mark Bielicki with Bi-Metals Recycling said the fire was likely “spontaneous combustion,” which can occur with large amounts of self-heating material. The facility recycles metal salvaged from the material burned at the waste-to-energy plant in Portsmouth.

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The burned ash is likely what started the fire, Bielicki said.

“It happens very rarely,” he told the SPSA board, which asked questions about the fire. “We’ve been dealing with it since 1988 and never had something get out of control. We try not to keep too much on the floor at any time.”

There were no injuries or property damage in the fire, but Marley A. Woodall Jr., who represents Chesapeake on the board, was concerned the fire may not be discovered quickly enough next time.

“If the guy doesn’t see it, it’s going to burn,” he said. “Why have them if we can avoid them?”

“We do take it seriously,” Bielicki responded.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, financial officer Liesl DeVary said the authority has delayed soliciting bids on some capital projects after seeing a reduction in waste being disposed through the authority.

She called the move “a precautionary measure,” adding that the decrease was not drastic.

“We’re just going to watch tonnages,” she said.

A public hearing last month to receive comments about increased levels of methane around the landfill did not receive any visitors, SPSA executive director Rowland Taylor informed the board.

“The work that has been done has greatly helped that,” Taylor added.

The board’s next meeting is set for Feb. 27. Its budget is set to be presented at the March meeting.