A fire that has been burning since the early hours of Sunday at the Lismore tip, is still smouldering and the North Coast Public Health Unit is urging people with heart and respiratory conditions to be aware of the health risks.
There are 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. FRNSW has indicated it could be a number of days or even weeks before the fire can be fully extinguished.
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.
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.
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,’ said Mr Bell.
‘Smoke may aggravate existing heart and lung conditions and cause irritated eyes, coughing and wheezing. Stay indoors, close windows and follow your health plan.
Mr Bell says 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. ‘For 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.
Council’s Executive Director of Infrastructure Services Gary Murphy says the collection of green waste is complicated by the yellow crazy ant exclusion zones still in place in and around Lismore.
‘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,’ he said.
‘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.’
For more information on the health impacts of smoke, visit the NSW Health website: http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/factsheets/Pages/bushfire-smoke.aspx
In case of emergency always remember to dial triple zero.