This is due to the removal of virtually all of the physical evidence required for forensic examination, which has been taken to the Health & Safety Laboratories in Buxton, Derbyshire. The remaining investigators’ enquiries are now concentrated on a few limited areas of the Buncefield site, and are primarily concerned with how the storage bunds around the tanks performed in retaining the escaped fuel and firewater during the incident.
Taf Powell, Investigation Manager, said: “This marks an important stage in the progress of the on-going investigation into the Buncefield incident; evidence gathering activity on-site is now reducing, but the overall investigation continues to pursue all reasonable lines of inquiry.”
All unconfined fuel has now been removed from the site, and the site is no longer deemed to present undue hazard. The regulatory authorities (the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency) are satisfied that the dismantling of tanks and equipment, and the cleaning of the site, can now be carried out safely under the provisions of current health, safety and environmental regulations. The Prohibition Notices issued on 16th December 2005 have been fully complied with.
Statutory procedures must be followed if the operators of the damaged parts of the site, previously operated by Hertfordshire Oil Storage Limited and British Pipeline Agency Limited wish to recommence handling and storage of fuels from Buncefield. The regulatory authorities will need to be satisfied that suitable measures are in place to control off-site and on-site risks arising from the activities and the local planning authorities (mainly Dacorum Borough Council) will need to be provided with full details of all potential works before any planning applications can be contemplated. To date, none of the relevant authorities have been notified of any plans for the site.
On the separate BP depot, which was not part of the investigation site, some repairs have been carried out so that fuel stored since the incident can be removed to allow further inspection of the tanks.
As with the damaged parts of the site, none of the relevant authorities have been notified of plans for the long-term use of this area. Any options would require the relevant authorities to be satisfied that appropriate consents had been obtained by the operators, and that safety and environmental protection measures were to the highest current standards.