Rainham dump fires raise health fears for residents

Fires at an illegal dump in Havering are releasing thick clouds of acrid smoke onto the road, local residents have reported.

Over the last few days, the London Fire Brigade has repeatedly responded to fires at Arnolds Field, in Launders Lane, Rainham.

Early on Wednesday morning (August 16), a local resident travelling along New Road, which runs past the site, filmed cars with their headlights on full beam driving through a thick cloud of smoke.

Daiva told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “The smell is really bad, something between burning plastic or rubber tyres.”

The London Fire Brigade confirmed that it attended a fire at Arnolds Field which destroyed about 20 square metres of scrubland.

They said: “The brigade was called at 0605, and the fire was under control by 0815. The cause of the fire is not known.”

Due to concerns about a “high chance” of buried gas cylinders and sink holes, firefighters use extending ladders to hose fires on the land.

Thick, acrid smoke covering the road prompted some drivers to use their headlights on Wednesday morning (Image: Daiva)

Local residents fear their health and quality of life are impacted by harmful gases from underground fires on the site, where unregulated waste has been dumped for 20 years.

They have become increasingly frustrated with what they see as a lack of action to tackle the fires, which have become more and more frequent in recent years.

Last July, wildfires near to the site devastated the village of Wennington, destroying 17 houses.

In response to a Freedom of Information request, the London Fire Brigade said it has responded to 179 incidents on or near the site since 2019.

Havering Council is now working with a university to study the potential risks to human health from smoke using air quality monitors.

However, local campaign group Rainham Against Pollution has criticised the council for taking too long to commission a full survey into what is buried on the land.

The site has been used as a dumping ground for unregulated waste since the late 1990s, when it was used as a quarry.

Landowner DMC Essex, which bought the site for £440,000 in 2017, has accused the council of “blocking” its offer to make the site safe in exchange for planning permission to develop part of the site.

DMC Essex’s co-owner Jeremiah O’Donovan has been approached for comment about the fires but had not responded at the time of publication.

A spokesperson for the Environment Agency declined to comment, telling the LDRS it is Havering Council’s responsibility to regulate the site.

Havering Council has been approached for comment.


Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter