TWO rapid-response vehicles are now at the ready to tackle pollution incidents.
The Environment Agency and Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service have joined forces to improve the way the county responds to incidents.
Known as Environmental Protection Units (EPUs), the specially equipped VW ‘Crafter’ vehicles will attend a variety of pollution incidents, including fuel and chemical spills.
They also carry equipment to assist with flooding incidents and manage water that runs off buildings or land as firefighters hose down fires.
The vehicles are part of a national project to supply EPUs to fire services across the country.
Equipped with booms, absorbents, drain mats, storage tanks and emergency pumps, the vehicles can swing into action as soon as they arrive at pollution incidents.
James Humphrys, area manager for the Environment Agency, said: ‘Through their quick attendance, equipment and training, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service are able to provide an unrivalled response to incidents that threaten the environment.
‘Intervening at an early stage using low-cost pollution containment equipment prevents an incident from escalating.
‘This reduces both the overall environmental impact and financial cost of an incident.’
The vehicles were put to good use on Monday when a bus caught fire on the B3047 at Chilland, near Winchester.
The equipment was used to contain 120 litres of diesel, preventing the fuel from potentially polluting the River Itchen.
Each vehicle is crewed by a specially trained fire and rescue crew capable of working alone or alongside a fire engine.
Mr Humphrys handed over the keys to Chief Fire Officer John Bonney at the fire service’s headquarters at Eastleigh.
The two vehicles will be based at Romsey and Alton fire stations, but will also cover the Portsmouth area.
Badged in a distinctive fire service red livery, the new blue light vehicles will also carry the Environment Agency logo.
Mr Bonney said: ‘The new units will allow us to greatly improve our ability to protect the environment and further enhance our partnership with the Environment Agency.’
Each year the Environment Agency receives reports of around 22,000 pollution incidents – that is more than 60 per day.
Common call-outs include the run-off of pesticides from farms.