Averies Recycling Limited operators charged with environmental offences
David and Lee Averies, operators of fire-hit waste management company Averies Recycling (Swindon) Limited (ARSL), are due to appear at Swindon Magistrates Court on 22 June facing charges relating to environmental offences.
Following an investigation led by the Environment Agency (EA), the brothers face allegations that they ‘kept, treated or disposed of controlled waste in a manner likely to cause pollution of the environment or harm to human life’.
They have also been charged with breaching the conditions of an environmental permit – in relation to the ‘volume of waste stored on site’ and having ‘inadequate security to prevent unauthorised access to the site’.
It is thought that the mismanagement of the site contributed to a fire that burned at their site for eight weeks last summer.
Firefighters from Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service were first called to the Marshgate site in Swindon on 20 July 2014, after the fire service received calls reporting that a ‘significant’ fire, involving around 1,000 tonnes of general building waste, had started.
The fire continued to burn over the duration of the summer, as efforts to extinguish the fire were ‘hampered’ due to the seat of the fire being ‘inaccessible’.
The EA served an enforcement notice upon ARSL in August 2014 to move 3,000 tonnes of waste, to give fire crews better access. As ARSL failed to remove the waste, the EA appointed contractors to complete the work. At the time, the EA estimated the cost of tackling the fire to have reached approximately £500,000.
Following this, a further 1,000 tonnes of waste was cleared, and this enabled more ‘aggressive tactics’ to be adopted by the fire fighters at the scene, which led to the fire finally being extinguished on 15 September.
The EA later issued revocation notices to both ARSL and its sister company Swindon Skips, prohibiting any further waste activities from taking place and requiring all 7,000 tonnes of waste to be removed from the Swindon Skips Brindley Close site by 4 March and the ARSL Marshgate site by 15 April 2015. The EA estimates that this action could cost around £1 million.
Although the company announced in January of this year that it had entered administration, the responsibility for clearing the site still lies with the Averies brothers.
Swindon Borough Council is now calling on residents and businesses impacted by ARSL’s fire to submit details of their experience to a council inquiry so that ‘lessons can be learned for the future’.
Tackling waste fires
The waste industry has encountered an increasing number of waste site fires in recent years, with the average rate of fires at waste and recycling works coming in at just under one per day.
In an attempt to prevent fires from occurring, the Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) Forum has issued new guidance to help waste site operators to reduce fire risk.
Endorsed by the Chief Fire Officers’ Association (CFOA), and developed with input from the Environment Agency (EA), the Environmental Services Association (ESA), the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the Health and Safety Laboratories (HSL), and other bodies, the guidance outlines how best to safely manage the storage of materials susceptible to combustion.
Find out more about the problems of waste site fires