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Fire Service launches new Environmental Protection Unit

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The media are invited to the launch of Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service's (HWFRS) new Environmental Protection Unit (EPU) in Stourport-on-Severn next week.

The official launch will take place at 2.00pm on Wednesday 8 December at Stourport-on-Severn Fire Station in Foundry Street.

The new EPU carries a specially trained crew of four and provides specialist equipment to contain spillages of chemicals that might harm the environment and wildlife. This is in addition to first line response of using environmental grab bags, which are carried as standard on all fire appliances.

The unit replaces the original trailers which were supplied by the Environment Agency to the Fire Service as part of a national initiative that recognised that Fire Services can provide a quick response to environmental incidents.

These trailers, which have been in use for over 10 years, will be taken out of service following delivery of the new EPU vehicle.

This new unit has been part funded by the Environment Agency and is specially designed with enhanced stowage facilities and the welfare of the crew taken into account. It will be based permanently at Stourport Fire Station, and will be called to respond to any incidents across the two counties of Herefordshire and Worcestershire involving chemicals or hazardous substances. This could include any incident where there was a risk of fire or spillage into waterways, where there was a road incident involving a tanker or a confirmed carrier of hazardous waste, or any other specific request from the incident commander for the EPU to attend.

The Environment Agency will continue to provide a range of equipment designed to contain or absorb a wide range of polluting substances. This equipment includes absorbent pads (to soak up fuel spills); various types of booms (to contain chemical and oil spills); pop-up pools (for placing under vehicles leaking fuel), drain blockers (to prevent chemicals entering drains and watercourses) and also oversized drums (to contain leaking containers or other spillages).

Those attending Wednesday's launch will be able to watch the specially trained EPU crew demonstrate the benefits of the new vehicle and will have chance to take a closer look at some of the specialist kit they use to contain chemical and pollution incidents.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Tony Prosser at HWFRS, who will be at the launch, said: "Protection of our environment is one of our key objectives. We have become highly skilled at responding to incidents involving chemicals or other hazardous substances over the last decade, and we welcome the addition of this new EPU to our fleet, which will give us a greater level of resilience still.

"Training is on-going and we will continue to work closely with our colleagues at the Environment Agency to ensure that the impact of any chemical incident is kept to an absolute minimum."

John Bateman, Emergency Planner at the Environment Agency, added: "We are delighted to be working with Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service to ensure there is an emergency response to dealing with environmental incidents. Over the last 15 years, they have prevented some very serious pollution incidents by using the equipment in these units to contain fuel, slurry, chemicals or polluted water at the incident scene. The fire crews can get to an incident very quickly, and we can provide them with the best equipment for holding the pollution at the scene.

"With this new vehicle, the response can only get better."

Some of the larger incidents that EPUs from HWFRS have been called to attend recently include a chemical spillage at printers in Pinvin, near Pershore on 13 November; a road traffic collision involving a domestic oil tank in Malvern on 8 November; a fire at a recycling plant in Kidderminster on 5 October and a serious factory fire at an electroplating company in Kidderminster on 23 August.