An estimated 8,500 tons of aluminium waste that turns toxic if wet was threatened by a fire that broke out Monday afternoon in southern New Zealand, local media report.
At about 1:40 p.m., the fire in Mataura, Southland, ignited in the basement of a closed paper mill being used as storage for the aluminium waste known as ouvea premix. When wet, the waste product releases ammonia gas.
The fire, burning inside a hydro generator, was nearly 100 feet from the waste stored in bags on a different floor.
Likewise, none of the water from a sprinkler system activated by the flames reached the waste. Firefighters used hazardous material protection to enter the building as a precaution.
The fire was quickly extinguished once it was established that no current was going through the generator.
The waste has been the focus of local controversy after the building flooded twice earlier this year. Production at the smelter owned by Rio Tinto is schedule to cease next summer.