Company ordered to pay £230,000 after a major industrial fire
Last time we reported on the Oxfordshire company Red Jon Ltd, which kept 1,790 tonnes of wood at a site when the legal limit was just 500 tonnes. They were fined fifteen grand and ordered to pay £28,000 in costs. Now there’s been yet another dramatic wood storage scandal thanks to two nasty industrial fires and a water pollution incident.
The wood recycling company R Plevin and Sons Ltd pleaded guilty, fined an impressive £230,000 at Sheffield Crown Court thanks to a prosecution by the Environment Agency over a number of serious environmental incidents through 2014.
A major commercial fire at Plevin’s Barnsley-based wood recycling centre ended up polluting a local river, temporarily closing a sewage treatment plant and belching out toxic smoke which affected people as far as twenty miles away in Sheffield.
Plevin’s shreds as much as 150,000 tonnes of waste wood a year, removing contaminants so it can be transformed into biomass fuel for EON. Their environmental permit required ‘detailed working plans’ to manage the risks, including maximum sizes for waste wood stockpiles, important because when there’s enough wood left hanging around it can easily self-combust.
A large fire in April 2014 led to concerns about the company’s management of the incident and its fire prevention plans. The Environment Agency demanded various changes and improvements including a detailed incident management plan and limit on stockpiling. But despite this June 2014 saw another huge blaze lasting an extraordinary 13 days. South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service called the fire their ‘largest resource commitment for over 11 years’ and it cost the taxpayer more than half a million pounds as well as belching large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.
Plevin’s failed to take action yet again and two months later water contaminated with toxic pollution escaped into nearby gardens and a nearby dyke, closing a nearby sewage treatment works to be shut down. The Judge said the risks of self-combustion in waste wood were well known, and that the company had deliberately failed to avoid the fires and water pollution. Plevin’s ordered to pay £30,000 prosecution costs as well as a fine of £230,000.
As a spokesperson for the Environment Agency said, “Failure to comply with the legal requirements of an environmental permit is a serious offence that can damage the environment, undermine those who adhere to the rules and cause misery for local communities and we welcome the sentence handed down today. It demonstrates that blatant disregard for environmental regulations will not be tolerated.”
Mr Woods pays an £11,600 fine
A businessman with a quarter century’s experience in the waste sector has been fined £11,600 for running his Telford-based waste recycling site without an environmental permit. Mr Brian Anthony Woods received a Regulation 44 Order under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2016, demanding he clear the waste on the site before 26th July and forbidding him to bring any more waste onto the site in the meantime.
A previous hearing in August 2019 required Mr Woods to clear the waste on site, but only 500 or so cubic metres had been removed and 6000 cubic metres remained. Woods pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing, and also has previous convictions dating back to 2011 for environmental offences committed from 2009 to 2010. Despite this, he’d carried on breaking the law.
Woman jailed for illegal waste storage processing
A woman has been sent to prison for 30 consecutive weeks for playing a part in a totally illegal family-run waste storage and processing business. Lucy Mete, aged 26, helped her father and sister run the operation for two years at their farm near Faversham.
James Mete and his daughters Lucy and Billie were prosecuted after 135 lorries full of soil and builders’ rubbish were dumped and treated at the farm between 2014 and 2016, without an environmental permit. Four weeks of Lucy Mete’s 30 week sentence was applied because she failed to turn up at court to be sentenced. There’s still an arrest warrant out for James Mete, who failed to turn up for sentencing in March 2019.
The Environment Manager for the Environment Agency in Kent said this was a deliberate breach of the law and all three knew they were carrying out a criminal offence. Because a footpath runs through the site, the Mete’s illegal activity ‘affected the public’s enjoyment of the area’ too, but they let waste dumping and treatment carry on for ‘a number of years’ anyway, without a permit.
Let’s talk industrial pollution prevention
Keep your reputation and that of your brand in good shape. Steer clear of the courts. Avoid environment penalties. We’ll help you do it all. Let’s talk.
David Cole MSEE
David is a pioneer of the spill containment and water pollution prevention industry with 30 years experience. He was instrumental in the development of CIRIA736 with The Environment Agency and is passionate about preventing water pollution.