The neighbours living right next to a plastics factory that went up in smoke last week

By Sian Burkitt

The neighbours living right next to a plastics factory that went up in smoke last week have spoken about their experiences.

The Capital Valley Plastics factory in Blaenavon went up in flames on Saturday night and burnt into Sunday morning, sending fumes from more than 600 tonnes of plastic over the surrounding area and prompting an investigation from Natural Resources Wales (NRW).

However, people living in houses nearby the factory say they were surprised to hear about the extent of the fire.

“We didn’t see it, we didn’t smell it, and nobody knocked at the door,” said Mary Harvey, 87, who lives on nearby West View.

“We are right behind the back of it, look… we’re the nearest.”

West View, a row of cottages, is located less than 300 metres from the factory, the nearest street of housing to the factory.

Mary Harvey, 87, lives on West View in Blaenavon, less than 300 metres away from the site of the fire at Capital Valley Plastics (Sian Burkitt/WalesOnline)

One reason why residents of West View say they were surprised to hear about the fire is that they claim no one came to inform them it was happening.

“No one came down to tell us. We were lucky that the wind was blowing towards Brynmawr,” said Mrs Harvey.

She added: “It was light out at about half past three in the morning and I thought it was the streetlight, look, because that shines right in through my back bedroom.”

Mrs Harvey said she only found out about the fire when concerned family members, who had found out about the news elsewhere, called her to see if she was okay.

“My sister rang me later on to ask how I’d got on with the fire, because her son in law was one of the firemen who was there.”

Mrs Harvey said that her sister’s main concern was the pollution caused by the fire.

“My sister was worried about the fumes from the plastic and all, but we were lucky,” said Mrs Harvey.

Mrs Harvey’s son in law was also nearby on the night of the fire, driving past Keeper’s Pond, and described the “glow” he saw across the sky to her.

On nearby Kennard Place, neighbours also claim they also weren’t aware of the fire while it was happening.

“I really didn’t know anything about it until someone posted a picture,” said one resident.

“I went out into the back and I could see the flames.”

They added: “I went out and I really couldn’t smell it like you could with a normal fire. Unless the wind was in a different direction.”

With more than 600 tonnes of plastic being burnt, NRW confirmed on Wednesday that officers had been investigating the site. It also claimed that no pollution had been detected following the incident.

“Our officers were on site at an industrial unit in Blaenavon on Sunday afternoon to support the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service who were dealing with a large fire that had broken out,” said Simon Worrall Senior Environment Officer for Natural Resources Wales.

(Mark Lewis)

“Our officers provided advice to minimise the risk of pollution to nearby water courses and monitor any impact on air quality.

“Fire water run-off prevention measures were put in place to help protect the Afon Llwyd.

“Our officers returned to site on Monday to carry out inspections of the local water courses and ensure no problems were encountered during the clean-up. No signs of pollution have been found.”

Officers from South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (SWFRS) were also working on the site until Monday morning.

A statement from them confirmed that fire investigators “re-inspected the area on multiple occasions over the course of the weekend” and were on site on Monday morning to provide further checks.

In West View, fellow resident Peter Davies also said that, like Mrs Harvey, he was surprised to find out there had been such a large fire near his home.

“I only knew about it because the neighbour in the end house told me about it,” said Mr Davis.

“They didn’t knock on anybody’s door.”

A fire at a plastics factory in Blaenavon overnight on, Saturday, September 4 to Sunday, September 5 could be seen for miles (Bethan Garland)

Mrs Harvey and Mr Davies said they were largely reassured by the fact that they did not smell fumes from the factory on the night of the blaze from their homes.

However, Mrs Harvey added that her health problems, specifically her weaker lungs, meant she would be concerned about the potential impact of breathing in smoke from the burning plastic.

“Of course you are [worried], and I’ve got a bad chest,” she said.

“We weren’t worried about the factory being there [until the fire]. All we were thinking was, well they could’ve let us bloody know!”

The full statement issued by SWFRS on Monday said: “At approximately 9.39pm on September 4, 2021, we responded to reports of a large scale fire at a recycling plant in Kays And Kears Industrial Estate, Blaenavon.

“Firefighters were deployed to the scene to tackle the fire involving approximately 600 tonnes of recycled plastics.

“Due to the scale of the fire, the materials alight continued to smoulder and crews worked in partnership to strategize and decide a course of action.

“A range of specialist equipment including aerial ladder platforms, high volume pumps and numerous fire appliances were utilised to help tackle the fire and secure the area.

“In partnership with Natural Resources Wales (NRW), Gwent Police and Public Health Wales our crews worked together to reduce the risk to the environment.

“A stop message was received at 12.24pm on September 5, 2021, and it was confirmed that the fire had been extinguished.

“A clean-up process is now underway and we would like to remind local residents that the recycling plant remains closed at this time and to follow any guidance from Natural Resources Wales and Public Health Wales regarding the surrounding area.

“Natural Resources Wales are continuing to work on a number of measures to help minimise the impact of pollution to the local environment. As a safety precaution, residents nearby were asked to keep their windows and doors closed due to an accumulation of smoke in the area, this measure has now been lifted.

“Anyone who may have any environmental concerns can get in touch with Natural Resources Wales by calling 03000 65 3000, which is open 24 hours a day.

“The site will remain closed as a precaution to allow for a full clean-up operation and to ensure that the area is made safe.

“Fire investigators have re-inspected the area on multiple occasions over the course of the weekend and will be on site this morning to provide further checks.

“Crews alongside our partners would like to thank local residents and community for their patience and support.”

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