Fire gets metal recycler in hot water

Published 10:11 pm Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The president of a metal recycling company that operates at the regional landfill in Suffolk was raked over the coals at Wednesday’s Southeastern Public Service Authority meeting.

The chiding related to a fire that took place at the landfill on April 14 after a Bi-Metal Recycling employee dumped “fluff” from the metal recycling operation on top of the landfill’s hill.

“It was put out very quickly, but it still shouldn’t have happened,” said Rowland Taylor, executive director of the regional trash authority.

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No one knows why the material — non-metal detritus that comes into the facility with the metal — caught fire. It was dumped on top of the hill after 11 a.m. that day, which was a Monday. The landfill is closed on Mondays, with only a few employees on duty until 11.

But an employee with Bi-Metal Recycling, which has a location on site, forgot to notify SPSA crew before dumping the material, said Mark Bielicki, president of Bi-Metal Recycling.

“It was a bad set of circumstances,” Bielicki said. He said the company’s operating schedule has been adjusted to eliminate the need to dispose of the material after 11 on Mondays.

Taylor said the fire was discovered shortly after it started by a truck driver at the landfill. The Suffolk Department of Fire and Rescue was able to extinguish it from the ground, without having to send a truck up the hill.

Several board members, including Suffolk’s city manager, Selena Cuffee-Glenn, expressed consternation.

“There’s grave concern from my city council as it relates to this incident,” she said. “It could have been much worse.”

In other business at the meeting, the SPSA board approved a $42.4-million budget for the coming year, which includes a 2-percent raise for employees and an additional bump for about 60 percent of the workforce as the result of a pay study.

There is no change in the $125 per ton tip fee, although the authority will take nearly $3 million from the tip fee stabilization fund to make that happen. The fund was created a couple of years ago to help the eight member localities plan ahead by keeping the tip fee the same.

But the authority’s financial officer, Liesl DeVary, said the tip fee may not be able to remain at its current level if municipal tonnages continue to decline.