Rendering giant pays £150,000 for ‘deeply obnoxious’ odours

A London borough has obtained a record fine against John Knight (ABP) Ltd, part of rendering giant Prosper de Mulder, for offences that led to strong odours.

An east London rendering plant has received a record fine of £75,000, and was ordered to pay the same again in costs, for breaching environmental permit conditions.

John Knight (ABP) Ltd, part of the Prosper de Mulder (PDM) group, appeared at Inner London crown court on 16 February, following a prosecution by the London Borough of Newham.

The firm admitted to six breaches of its permit, offences under regulation 38(1)(b) of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010. It had failed to properly treat or prevent odours between 3 July and 2 September 2009.

The court heard that Newham council’s pollution control team received several odour complaints about the plant, that summer.

On six occasions officers noted offensive odours in the housing estate nearby, which they attributed to the plant. A council statement described it as a “vile stench” and residents noted “a repugnant, distasteful, rancid odour… of rotten flesh”.

Consultants hired by the borough found the odours occurred when the boilers were fired minimally or were not in use. The plant’s abatement system uses the boiler to incinerate only the most concentrated emissions – in line with best available techniques – and sends less contaminated air through a chemical scrubber.

John Knight initially contested all of the charges and opted for a jury trial. However, before the hearing it admitted to the odour treatment failures.

Newham also brought eight related charges concerning dust emissions, the open-air storage of meat meal and releasing an offensive odour beyond the site boundary. But these were left on file for possible future prosecution.

Judge Mervyn Roberts described the odour impact on local residents as “deeply obnoxious”.

ENDS believes the £75,000 fine is the UK’s largest for an odour-related offence and the largest obtained by a council for an environmental crime.

It is also the fifth largest against an installation regulated under integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC), or its predecessor, integrated pollution control (IPC).

After the trial, Newham councillor Unmesh Desai said: “This is the second time we have taken John Knight to task and that’s twice too many in my book. The company needs to get its act together.”

The company paid £20,500 in fines and costs in June 2009 after it left carcasses to rot in the open air (ENDS Report 414, p 65).

Thames Water has also prosecuted the firm for exceeding its trade effluent consent (ENDS Report 404, p 51).

The firm has applied for a variation to its environmental permit to allow it to keep one boiler running to treat all odours by incineration.

But John Knight director Bob Ratcliffe said the council was unconvinced: “To move forward, we need to have a highly technical discussion in an industrial forum that specifically understands the complexities of the process,” he said.

“Despite this disappointment and the recent court case... we’re confident we can move ahead with the council to resolve the challenges quickly.”

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