TXU pleaded guilty at Telford magistrates court on 10 September to failing to have appropriate written operating instructions for staff in the control room of the Ironbridge station in Shropshire. The offence was contrary to section 6(1) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. The company was fined £5,000 with £2,260 in costs.
The offence came to light last September when the Agency reviewed TXU's monitoring data. It found that dust emissions from the main stack had been some three times above normal levels for a period of two hours the previous month. According to the Agency, the release was not technically a breach of the plant's particulate emission limit and had only a "minor" environmental impact.
However, an investigation showed that a contributory factor was the lack of proper training and clear instructions to staff on how to deal with such an incident. This was despite a warning letter from the Agency in May 2000 and a promise from TXU to put "more robust procedures" in place. The Agency issued an enforcement notice last October requiring TXU to comply, which it subsequently did.
Agency inspector David Sheldon told ENDS: "If TXU had properly trained and instructed staff, action could have been taken to minimise the dust releases. Staff should have reduced the load on the plant and investigated the cause of the excessive emission."