Waste removal businesses face prosecution after Thames Valley EA action

The Environment Agency has found 10 companies' waste disposal sites to be illegal, after conducting unannounced spot-checks on 117 local businesses across Berkshire and Buckinghamshire on Tuesday (3 October).

Waste removal businesses face prosecution after Thames Valley EA action
Environment Agency staff inspecting one of the sites
The inspection was part of a crack-down on waste crime and and safe waste disposal, and covered the removal of hazardous items, like chemicals and car batteries. Thames Water assisted the inspections on pollution checks. Companies were also checked for having the correct environmental permit for their business.

Mark Tucker, Installations Team Leader for the Environment Agency in the Thames Valley, said: “The 117 sites we inspected this week were under no illusion of their legal obligations on waste management. Mishandling waste, poorly-operated permitted sites and illegal waste activities can pose a threat to human health and the environment by contaminating land, polluting rivers and producing emissions from burning waste.

“The Environment Agency works with businesses to make sure waste ends up in the right place, and may take formal action where we believe a serious crime has been committed through illegal waste disposal. Anyone who produces, carries, keeps, treats or disposes of waste has a duty of care to make sure it is managed correctly.”

The Environment Agency will do follow-up visits, potentially leading to criminal charges if offenders fail to meet legal standards.

Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 it is an offence to ‘treat, keep or dispose of controlled waste that could cause environmental pollution or harm to human health,’ and is punishable by up to 12 months imprisonment or an unlimited fine.

The agency’s enforcement is part of the ongoing right Waste,right Place (rWrP) campaign which launched in April 2016 to help small and medium-sized businesses meet their duty of care obligations to ensure waste is properly disposed of.

The campaign is a collaboration between the the Environmental Services Association (ESA), the Environment Agency, and other sponsors in the industry, after ESA research found that 94 percent of non-compliant organisations are small and medium sized businesses.

Environment Agency staff were also positioned at DIY stores in Slough to offer free waste-handling advice to hauliers and homeowners.

Bristol company punished for hazardous waste misuse

Earlier this week Bristol waste company Churngold Recycling Ltd and two of its directors were fined £32,450 and given suspended sentences after a high court trial in July found them guilty for illegally supplying thousands of tonnes of hazardous waste.

The sentencing follows a five-year Environment Agency investigation, ‘Operation Durable’, into the company and directors, John Barcham and Lee Phelan, which culminated in a nine-week trial at Bristol Crown Court earlier this year.

Waste material containing asbestos, lead and other heavy metals, removed from a site in Oxford as part of a contract with BMW, was mixed with other waste and used as ground material for a Co-op distribution centre near Avonmouth. Work on the site was then suspended in December 2011 after Environment agency analysis showed unsafe levels of hazardous chemicals.

According to the Environment Agency, ground-workers at the Co-op site said the Churngold material gave them ‘runny and sore eyes’. One worker said it smelt like ‘faeces and bleach’ and ‘took his breath away.’ Others described the clay-like material as ‘smelling like a hospital’.

The Environment Agency’s Adrian Evans said: “Hazardous waste must be handled and treated with great care to safeguard human health and the environment. This case shows the Environment Agency will take serious action against people who fail to comply with the law.

“Churngold Recycling Ltd had a culture where commercial gain was given priority over environmental protection. We hope this prosecution sends out a strong deterrent message to others who flout the law.”