The company linked the increase in truck fires to improper hazardous waste disposal caused by pandemic restrictions, such as stay-at-home orders, that began in mid-March.

Penn Waste, Manchester, Pennsylvania, and local officials say a spike in improperly discarded hazardous waste in York County has caused numerous fires in its trucks and at its facilities in recent months, reports the York Dispatch.

Since March, there have been six truck fires and one fire at the company’s recycling plant, which was triggered by a propane tank explosion on July 17. Penn Waste typically sees about one truck fire a year, according to Amanda Moley, a spokesperson for Penn Waste.

“We have 75 people that work in our recycling facility, so this is really putting their safety at risk,” Moley told the York Dispatch. “People might think it’s not a big deal, but it has serious consequences.”

While propane tanks are the most dangerous hazardous waste being improperly discarded, pool cleaning chemicals, rechargeable batteries and live ammunition also have caused problems for Penn Waste, Moley said.

The company linked the increase in improper hazardous waste disposal to the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions, such as stay-at-home orders, that began in mid-March.

“People at home are doing mass clean-outs, getting rid of stuff,” Moley said. “We’ve seen a major increase in the volume of disposal in general.”

While propane tanks can be harmful once they explode, pool chemicals have also been a major cause for truck fires. Due to the public not treating these chemicals as combustible, Moley says when mixed with other liquids it can generate heat and spark fires.

She said the best way residents can make sure they are disposing of waste properly is to check with the York County Solid Waste Authority and participate in its annual household hazardous waste program, which is set to take place on Oct. 3.

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