Firefighters tackling the blaze at Panda Waste.
A major clean-up is continuing this week following the massive fire at the Panda Waste Plant at Rathdrinagh, Slane, over the weekend, which saw residents warned to stay indoors as smoke from the blaze reduced traffic on the N2 to a single lane for over a day.
In what is believed to be one of the biggest fire-fighting operations undertaken by the Meath Fire Service in recent times, eight fire appliances battled to bring the blaze at a large warehouse packed with recycled materials under control late last Wednesday night and early on Thursday morning.
They swiftly brought the flames under control but the fire wasn't fully extinguished until the early hours of Sunday morning, with three to four units remaining at the scene over the weekend.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed this week that it would be investigating the cause of the fire and the response to it.
A major rebuild operation is to get underway almost immediately, according to a Panda spokesperson, who said the Slane staff of over 60 employees had been redeployed to the company's other sites. He said additional staff would be employed on a short-term basis to help in the clean-up operation.
Residents of the area expressed concern at the thick smoke which enveloped the area over the weekend. Locals involved in the campaign against Panda's proposal for a biogas power plant at the site have questioned the wisdom of allowing such a facility be developed, amid claims that there had been two previous fires at the Rathdrinagh plant - in November 2010 and November 2011.
Wednesday night's blaze broke out at around 11.30pm and is believed to have started in a machine.
A large black plume of smoke quickly enveloped the area and according to local residents, could be seen many miles away, as far away as Seneschalstown GAA pitch.
On Thursday, Meath County Council advised people to stay indoors and to close all windows and doors. A traffic light single lane system was put in place on the N2 and motorists were advised to avoid the road if possible because of poor visiblity due to the smoke.
Meath County Council moved to reassure residents in the area that there was no risk to water quality as a result of the fire, as the run-off water was being contained and removed from the site.
"Watercourses in the vicinity of the plant were blocked off to contain water as a result of heavy rain," a spokesperson said.
The council said that a problem with discoloured water in the area which arose yesterday (Tuesday) morning had no connection with the fire and was most likely the result of works carried out on the water system in Kentstown on Monday.
However, residents said they had been very concerned for the safety of their own families and properties as well as workers at the plant.
Teresa Outram, who lives directly across the road, said the smell of smoke in her home in the days after the fire was "unreal".
She said: "My son and I are both asthmatic and I got very hoarse very quickly and it was a while before we got any information on what we should do, or whether we should leave our homes," she said.
To read the full story see this week's Meath Chronicle.