The introduction of the landfill tax in 1996 has led to concern that higher landfill charges are diverting waste to creative "uses" such as golf course construction (ENDS Report 276, pp 20-23 ). The use of inert waste "in the provision of recreational facilities" enjoys an exemption from the 1994 waste licensing regulations.
The recent prosecution involved waste tipped before the landfill tax took effect. Inert waste was being tipped at Moated Farm, a golf course development in Addlestone, in order to improve drainage. In early 1996, Surrey waste regulators were tipped off by local residents and waste management firms that a wide range of unsuitable wastes was being used.
Officers visited the site on several occasions but found no evidence of illegal tipping until the activities were caught on video by a resident. The site operator was required to provide an excavator to investigate the deposits.
The Agency dug nearly 300 trial pits on the site, around ten of which revealed problems. Buried wastes included timber, trees, plasterboard, plastic sheeting, tarmac and car batteries. More than 35 lorry loads were removed for proper disposal.
The Agency brought charges against two companies in the case, which was heard by Chertsey magistrates in February. Demolition contractor BL Penwarden was fined £2,500 with £610 costs for a "duty of care" offence under section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. The firm had failed to complete transfer notes correctly, in some cases simply stating "muck-away" when timber and other materials were included.
The other company, Arlington Transport, which has a director in common with BL Penwarden, was fined £11,000 with £5,275 costs for keeping controlled waste on land without a licence, contrary to section 33(1)(b) of the 1990 Act. Officers pressed the charge of keeping waste, rather than depositing it, because they were unsure if they could prove who had tipped it.
Spreading of organic waste to agricultural land is exempt from waste licensing if it results in "ecological improvement" or "agricultural benefit". The Government is reviewing regulatory controls over such practices.
Blackburn magistrates heard that Shaw Brook near Blackburn became red and frothy after the injection of abattoir waste into the soil which had then entered the brook via drains. On another occasion, the Agency found that pollution was caused by wastes spread on the surface of the same field. It was also apparent that the company had mixed abattoir and brewery wastes at the roadside before spreading, without having a licence.
Land Feeds pleaded guilty to two charges of causing polluting matter to enter controlled waters, contrary to section 85(1) of the Water Resources Act 1991, as well as a charge of treating controlled waste without a licence, contrary to section 33(1)(b) of the 1990 Act. It was fined £2,000 and £4,000 for the water pollution offences and £2,000 for the waste offence.
Transorganics had been injecting brewery waste into a field adjacent to a tributary feeding the reserve. Effluent which passed beyond an earth dam placed there by the operators had killed fish.
The company said that since its operation involved spreading 750,000 tonnes of organic material annually, its record of five convictions over ten years should be placed in context.