IT is a smouldering mountain of waste that has been burning for more than two weeks.
So strong is the stench from the fire buried deep within the 9,000 tonne waste pile in Southampton that residents have been complaining of sore throats and eyes.
Now questions are being asked by “scared” householders and businesses about whether they could actually be at risk and if the materials could be hazardous for their health.
Despite attempts to smother the fire at Willments Shipyard in Woolston with earth, marina bosses based across the river in Shamrock Quay say it has done nothing to alleviate fumes and foul smells.
The fire in the Hazel Road waste heap flared up on September 28 by self-combustion with a mix of shredded wood, soil and demolition waste catching alight, firefighters said.
And while complaints of residents feeling unwell have been received by the council, they say they have not been made aware of any health risks.
Health protection chiefs said that smoke can be an irritant, particularly to asthmatics who are being told to carry their inhalers. They also urged people to “limit” the time they are exposed to the fumes.
But the advice is not enough to reassure people in Shamrock Quay, downwind from the site of the fire.
Anna Wyse, environmental policy manager at MDL Marinas, said her staff were very concerned.
She said: “The staff are scared about what is in the heap – does it have materials that are hazardous?
They are scared about what they could be inhaling and what is getting into their skin – is the smoke carcinogenic?
“We are trying to operate as a business and there is a toxic heap burning away. We never thought it would last this long. It has a really acrid smell.”
One 39-year-old Shamrock Quay resident, who did not want to be named, added: “It stinks most days. You get sore eyes and there is just a constant smell of rubbish. It’s disgusting.
I don’t know how they got the licence.”
A city council spokeswoman said the fire at the waste site was “under control” and being monitored around the clock by the site owners.
She said: “We are unaware of any threat to public health. Should the situation deteriorate and fire again breaks through, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service would respond and nearby residents would be advised to shut window and doors as considered appropriate.
“Interagency meetings will continue to consider how this complex situation can be fully resolved.”
The Health Protection Agency spokesman added: “Some of the substances present in smoke can irritate the lining of the air passages, the skin and the eyes. Respiratory symptoms include coughing and wheezing, breathlessness, sputum (phlegm) production and chest pain.”
As previously revealed the environment Agency had to stop water from the site running down drains amid fears it may be contaminated by the waste.