Wood recycler fined after fly infestation

Wood recycling and waste handling company Boomeco Ltd has been fined £14,000 for its role in a fly infestation that affected several homes in Bristol last year.

Bales of household waste stored at the company’s Avonmouth plant, which were being stored before being exported to be burnt as fuel, leaked fluid attracting the flies which filled nearby homes last summer. The issue triggered over 400 complaints from residents in four weeks.

Reports in the local media suggested that, for some families, the situation was so severe that they were forced to eat meals under mosquito nets to protect themselves from the insects.

Court hearing

Bristol Magistrates Court heard on Thursday (30 July) how Environment Agency (EA) officers had made eight visits to the site after the issue had first been reported on 7 May 2014.

Boomeco was awarded a contract by North Somerset Council in February 2014 to send 7,000-10,000 tonnes of its waste each year to a facility in Sweden where it would be used as refuse-derived fuel (RDF). Bristol City Council’s cabinet approved recommendations to join this agreement in June this year, adding up to 40,000 tonnes of refuse to the deal.

Under the terms of Boomeco’s permit, the bales of collected waste had to be wrapped in plastic sheets, but these were found to have been ripped open by forklift trucks on more than 200 bales, allowing ‘brown’ liquid with a ‘nauseating, putrid smell’ to leak out. 

Despite initial improvements, the company was found to be in breach of regulations and its licence was revoked on 6 June.

In defence, a representative of Boomeco said that the rips had been taped shut, but when sprayed with insecticide to kill surrounding flies, the adhesive tape had come apart and the bales had reopened.

He also stated that the company had suffered a projected £266,000 loss from the incident and had now changed practices, with bales no longer stored in Avonmouth.

District Judge Lynne Matthews ruled that although Boomeco’s mistakes had contributed to the infestation, they could not be definitively handed full responsibility.

As such, the court fined the company £14,000 fine and ordered it to pay costs of £4,873.56 for breaching an environmental permit.

Incident has led to stronger procedures

Oliver Latter, Managing Director of Boomeco, said, “Regrettably, Boomeco did not comply with the requirements for storing waste material at Avonmouth Docks. At the time, we were a new entrant to the market. We should have taken greater care with this waste. Steps were taken once we realised the problem, including removing damaged bales from the site. 

“We are a responsible business. We have accepted responsibility, apologised to the court and pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.

“Stronger procedures are now in place to make sure this situation never occurs again. For example, our bale storage now does not take place at the Docks and new handling equipment has been invested in to reduce the chances of damaged bales".

“We continue to work closely with the Environment Agency to ensure that our site meets stringent waste management standards.”

EA spokesman Ian Withers also commented, stating: “We were satisfied the failure of the company to control flies justified our robust enforcement action and the removal of its Regulatory Position statement.”

Find out more about how the Environment Agency tackles waste crime.

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