At around 5:40 a.m., a fire broke out in the hazardous waste receiving area of an industrial waste deconditioning and regrouping centre. The fire involved a 2,000 m² cell, containing:

  • empty plastic containers;
  • drums of waste oil;
  • solvent containers;
  • acids and bases;
  • tanks of thinners and paint dyes;
  • big-bags containing hydroxide sludge.

Several explosions occurred, probably due to pressurised metal drums. A neighbour sounded the alarm at around 7:00 a.m. The emergency response crews sprayed down the inside of the building from above, as the roof had collapsed. A street was closed off to traffic, and the intervention ended at around 10 a.m.

Consequences and actions taken

The hazardous waste receiving/transit building was rendered inoperable. Extinguishing water made its way into the public stormwater network. Pollution of the stormwater network outside the site and then in Oeuf River was observed as early as 10:30 a.m.

Several non-conformities were identified by the Inspection authorities for classified facilities:

  • following recent work, the building where the waste was being stored no longer allows containment of fire extinguishing water (removal of a bund);
  • the sectional valve isolating the site from the surrounding environment was not closed off quickly (1 hour after the fire had already been put out). The reason given was that a fire truck prevented access to it;
  • this sectional gate, although only recently installed, was not watertight and allowed polluted water to trickle into the municipal stormwater network. Commissioning of the valve did not include functional testing;
  • a significant quantity of hazardous liquid waste (oils, industrial washing water, etc.) was stored outside without any retention basin.

An emergency prefectural order was issued. The operator was ordered to bring its site into compliance (restoration of the building’s containment structure, installation of a watertight network closure device, disposal of waste stored in the retention, etc.). Incoming supplies of waste were stopped in the meantime. The operator has had analyses carried out on samples taken from the site’s sludge trap, the polluted river and the soil.

Causal analysis

The accident occurred at night, while no staff were present. Incompatible products (acids, bases, solvents, etc.) stored together in containers from waste disposal facilities may could have caused a chemical reaction, leading to a thermal reaction and fire. This waste had been received at the end of the day and stored in the receiving area pending sorting the following day. As the inventory and stock situation were unavailable, it was not possible to know the exact nature and quantity of the products present at the time of the accident.

In addition, a disc grinder was located near the area where the fire had started, although the operator had not recently authorised a fire permit. The possibility that hot-spot work may have produced sparks the day before the incident cannot be ruled out.

The administration had not been informed of the ongoing refurbishment works in the storage building.

Measures taken

Following the accident, the operator:

  • revised the on-site waste receiving procedure to ensure that potentially incompatible elements are sorted as soon as they arrive;
  • modified the organisation of its storage facilities and updated its hazard assessment accordingly;
  • reinforced the fire detection system;
  • conducted annual exercises with firefighters;
  • had the sectional valve repaired to make it hermetic.