State officials and regional fire departments are monitoring an ongoing fire situation at a Scott Waste Services transfer station in Auburn.
As of Thursday morning, an official involved in the situation expects the fire to be extinguished within a day.
On Monday evening, the Auburn, Russellville Rural, Franklin-Simpson, Adairville Rural and Browning fire departments responded to a call of a fire at 6:28 p.m. at 55 Pleasant View Road.
When the fire departments arrived, a front-end loader inside the estimated 10,000-square-foot building was on fire along with some trash. It’s expected that the tractor was the source of the fire, which soon spread across the top of the facility’s extensive trash piles, according to Jeff Gregory, Auburn’s fire chief.
“We put upwards of 60,000, 70,000 gallons of water and it didn’t go out,” Gregory said. “We had five or six tankers running back-and-forth to fill up and we didn’t even put a dent in it.”
The scene became blurry with black smoke. There were mattresses, paint cans and water bottles ablaze. Then, there were explosions.
“We had a lot of explosions during the time we were there. They can’t regulate what’s dumped there, so no telling what’s in there,” Gregory said. “We decided it was too unsafe for the firefighters to fight it and decided to let it just burn out. … You can’t risk people’s lives for a bunch of trash.”
Assisting with the monitoring effort, the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet sent an emergency response team to the scene as well as Division of Water staff to monitor local streams.
“We’re making sure that the water isn’t impacted. At this time, it doesn’t look like it,” said Robin Hartman, spokesperson for the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet.
Near the station, several streams connect to the Gasper River – but Hartman said the facility is unrelated to the fish kill that occurred last week in the northern part of the county.
The cabinet isn’t monitoring air quality.
“It’s in a fairly rural area, so there’s limited impact,” Hartman said, adding that there are “very few” residences in the area.
Officials did not order an evacuation.
The Scott Waste Services building in Auburn sits within the same grounds as Apex Environmental, which is owned by environmental consulting company TPM Inc.
“We’re trying to manage it quickly as possible,” said Eddie Hanks, president of TPM Inc., who also expressed appreciation for the state officials and firefighters’ tireless work to control the situation. “We want to get this up and running again and be good neighbors to the community.”
The Scott Waste Services facility acts as a pit stop for regional recycling and trash before it’s transferred to other facilities. The trash facility is closed off on three sides and open on one side where trucks can enter to dump or remove trash.
Nathan Cockrill, Logan County’s solid waste coordinator, said his community awaits answers. Last year, Logan County sent 24,806 tons of garbage and 415 tons of recycling to the facility.
“We’re obviously concerned,” Cockrill said. “We’d like to see this back up and running as soon as possible. They’re the ones we’re counting on to get something going for us.”
Cockrill said he hasn’t heard a plan about what’s next, such as whether they’ll build a new site. “We’ve been trying to direct people (and their trash) to Todd County and Elkton, or Bowling Green,” he said.
Burning trash can be dangerous.
Burning plastic, for example, releases cancer-causing, hormone-disrupting dioxins and furans into the atmosphere. These toxic chemicals then settle into water, soil, crops and bodies, either through contaminated air, water or meat, fish or dairy. Trash burning can also release mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls into the air, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Backyard burning, the practice of burning fire in the open, can increase the risk of heart disease, aggravate respiratory ailments such as asthma and emphysema, and cause rashes, nausea or headaches, according to the EPA.
Scott Waste Services declined to comment.