Waste Plant Fined £48k

2 October 2012, 06:00

A company running a waste recycling centre from Blackbridge Farm in Burton Latimer have been fined £33,000 and costs of £15,000 for failing to stop smells from the site and failing to remove illegally buried waste.

It's after the site caught fire twice in two weeks in October last year.

The Environment Agency received 345 complaints from people living in the area, some said they felt forced to stay indoors because of the smells and could not enjoy their gardens, sometimes feeling sick. 

Wellingborough Magistrates’ Court heard that Mr Gerard Reynolds, sole active director for the company, had failed to accept there was a problem.

Mrs Anne-Lise McDonald, prosecuting for the Environment Agency told the court:

“Investigating officers described the smells as unpleasant like wheelie bins full of stagnant rotting waste that you could not get away from.” 

Mrs McDonald told the court that creating smells was a breach of the permit conditions.

She said odour plans submitted by the company were considered by the Agency to be inadequate and in some cases stated measures that were not being followed. 

The offence had continued for months.

She said the company had failed to follow advice and had taken on site more waste than it should have done. Ten formal warnings had been issued to the company before it was summoned to the court.

Mrs McDonald said problems at the site included holes and tears in membranes used to cover the waste, uncovered baled waste stored outside, dirty water from waste storage left on the ground, too much and the wrong type of waste stored and waste blowing on the site, culled rat bodies left on the ground and doors being left open.

She said even when there was no activity on the site and all the waste appeared to be covered, there were still smells.

Mr Reynolds told investigating officers the company had made 50 improvements to the process. It had stopped accepting spicy sausage waste as it was attracting pests.

He said he did not think there was an odour problem at the site and thought that some people were ‘extremely sensitive’. Things would improve once the site was completely installed.

Think Environmental was fined £30,000 for the offence.

In February 2011 Kettering Magistrates’ Court fined the company and a director, David Heighton, a total of £30,000 for illegally burying waste on land that wasn’t permitted, and they promised to clear the land.

Mrs McDonald, told the court that the company drew up a plan to clear the site in April 2011. 

It then delayed the plan to July, then to October but in September the Agency served a notice to clear the site by November.

The court heard that fires on 24 September 2011 and 11 October 2011 had destroyed most of the site infrastructure and waste treatment and storage area and the deadline for the notice was extended to December.

Only 25% of the buried waste was removed from the paddock by the new deadline and none of the imported soil contaminated by the waste had been removed.

To date roughly a third of the waste which was illegally buried is still on site.

In mitigation, Mr David Egan, told the court the company had used bubblegum scented spray to mask the smells, had cleared the drains and had removed two-thirds of the buried waste.

Judge McGarva said: 

“The company was constantly warned and broke its promises. It was negligent if not grossly negligent and fell well below the required standard.”

After the hearing investigating Environment Agency officer Dawn Hambrook said: 

“As a regulator we always try to work with businesses, giving them advice and guidance to enable them to comply with the law and protect the environment. We took several steps to encourage Think Environmental to control the smells and to remove the waste but it failed to follow that advice.

“Unfortunately the company left us with no option other than enforcement action. We have a duty to protect the environment and those affected by environmental offences such as the local community and we will do this through robust, effective enforcement where necessary.”