"A London waste management and recycling business has been ordered to pay more than £1.2m after pleading guilty to historical waste offences at Harrow Crown Court.
Powerday Plc was sentenced for offences relating to two separate cases, which saw more than 17,000 tonnes of waste deposited and stored illegally.
Fines were imposed amounting to £1 million* and the company agreed to pay the Environment Agency’s costs of £243,955.35 for the investigation and prosecution.
The Agency brought the first case for alleged offences involving the receipt and storage of large quantities of hazardous waste at the company’s main operating site at Old Oak Sidings, Willesden in 2010.
The second case related to offences which occurred at a site operated by Aylesbury Mushroom Farms Ltd at Elmwood Farm, Black Bourton, Bampton, Oxfordshire in 2012 and involved the deposit of approximately 3,000 tonnes of non-hazardous trommel fines originating from the Willesden site.
Powerday, a family-owned firm, had previously admitted its guilt to the offences in relation to both sites.
According to the Agency, the offences at the Willesden site involved approximately 14,500 tonnes of hazardous waste (including construction and demolition waste containing asbestos, contaminated concrete and treated wood) that came from development sites in London and from a power station in Nottinghamshire.
At a previous hearing at Harrow Crown Court the company had argued it was legally entitled to store more than 10 tonnes of certain types of hazardous waste at the site in accordance with its interpretation of the permit. However, following legal argument, His Honour Judge Barklem ruled in favour of the Environment Agency and found that the permit did not allow the company to store more than 10 tonnes of such hazardous wastes at any one time at its Willesden site.
The Oxfordshire case had been transferred to Harrow Crown Court to be sentenced at the same time as the Willesden case.
Powerday had previously agreed in court to remove at its own cost the 3,000 tonnes of waste deposited at Elmwood Farm, and this removal had been completed in 2015. The Agency claimed that the waste had been deposited with the permission of the operator of the farm, but not in accordance with any relevant environmental permit or registered exemption.
Four others, including the owner of the farm, had been previously sentenced for offences relating to the same operation at Oxford Crown Court, and in respect of one offender, at the local Magistrates’ Court.
Counsel for the company informed the court that the cases were now several years in the past, that the company had corrected and improved its systems and procedures, and that it had developed excellent working relations with the regulator, the Environment Agency. The company and its managing director had apologised to the court for the historic failures which had given rise to the offences.
Following the conclusion of proceedings, Mick Crossan, owner of Powerday, said:
"We are pleased to have a resolution, although we remain frustrated that the case got to this point.
We acknowledge that there was a breach arising from an ambiguity in the Waste Management Licence at Old Oak Siding dating back to 2005. However, we had operated and openly reported our activities to the EA for a number of years and were subject to regular inspections from various officers and EA audit.
As soon as we were notified of a potential breach we stopped relevant operations.
The parties worked together over 18 months to agree a new Environmental Permit which clarified previous areas of ambiguity which we have operated successfully ever since.
In the years since the issues came to light, Powerday has continued to drive forward with industry leading standards at our state of the art Materials Recycling Facilities at Old Oak Sidings and Enfield. Since the incident came to light, we’ve introduced improved governance and management systems consistent with the increased scope and scale of the business.
We continue to work closely and professionally with the EA. Our customers can be assured of our high standards of compliance and excellent environmental performance."
*Breakdown of fines
In relation to the Willesden operation:
In relation to the Aylesbury Mushroom Farm operation:
- £350,000 for failing to comply with its environmental permit between the 31st December 2009 and the 6th of April 2010 in that it stored more than 10 tonnes of hazardous waste at the Willesden site for disposal – contrary to the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2007 (whereby that sum represented an agreed amount of financial benefit arising from the offences at the Willesden site).
- £350,000 for a similar offence with respect to the dates 6th April to 1st January 2011.
- £200,000 for treating, keeping or disposing of controlled waste in a manner likely to cause pollution or harm to human health – contrary to section 33(1)(c) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
- In addition, no separate penalty was imposed in respect of one admitted breach of the duty of care provisions under section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and one admitted breach of the Hazardous Waste Regulations 1990.
- £100,000 for the offence of depositing controlled waste at Elmwood Farm otherwise than in accordance with an environmental permit – contrary section 33(1)(a) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
- No separate penalty was imposed in respect of one admitted breach of the duty of care provisions under section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
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