Veolia fined for landfilling liquid, flammable wastes

Veolia has been fined just £2,000 after admitting that newly acquired business Cleanaway sent liquid and flammable hazardous wastes to landfill, nearly two years after the practice was banned. Solvents With Safety was fined for similar offences.

The incidents occurred in 2004 at the Kings Cliffe landfill site, Northamptonshire. The site was run by Atlantic Waste at the time but has since been sold to Augean (ENDS Report 359, p 22 ).

On 4 May, Cleanaway sent a batch of waste to the landfill from its waste transfer station in Preston. According to the consignment note it contained "solids as per attached list", but an inspection by the site’s chemist found it to be liquid.

The Environment Agency was called and took samples which showed the waste consisted of "synthetic detergents".

The landfill regulations banned liquids, as well as flammable and corrosive wastes, from being deposited in hazardous waste landfills from 2002 because these could damage the site’s liner or produce harmful emissions.

Cleanaway sent more illegal waste to Kings Cliffe on 11 June. This time the waste was described as "powder", but tests revealed a highly flammable mix of magnesium, aluminium and copper. According to Veolia, it was metal turnings and denatured paint.

When interviewed by Agency officers, Duncan Martin, Cleanaway’s then operations director, said the Preston site’s chemist had been retrained and two people had been disciplined over the consignment notes.

The Agency decided to press charges against Cleanaway. The case continued when the company was bought by Veolia last year (ENDS Report 378, p 12 ).

Appearing before Corby magistrates on 11 April, Veolia pleaded guilty to two charges of failing to ensure waste was transferred with a proper consignment note, contrary to sections 34(1) and (6) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

It was fined £2,000 in total with £6,500 costs. The maximum fine is £5,000 per offence.

  • Appearing before the same court on 20 April, Solvents With Safety was fined £2,000 for two offences. The Rotherham-based firm pleaded guilty to making false or misleading statements on a consignment note, contrary to sections 5 and 18(3) of the Special Waste Regulations 1996, and to failing to meet its duty of care obligations, contrary to sections 34(1) and 34(6) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. It was also made to pay £5,670 costs.

    The court heard that it consigned 80 205-litre drums to Kings Cliffe in August 2004, which it described as containing "solid waste - resins/paint/INTS/adhesive".

    The site chemist rejected 47 drums on arrival and Agency officers later sampled 11. The first nine contained flammable liquids with up to 59% ethanol. Another contained organic solvents.

    Many of the drums had been marked with warnings about their contents. Solvents With Safety’s general manager said the incident was the result of a loading error and a forklift truck driver picking up the wrong drums. He added that the company collected the drums and disposed of them properly as soon as Kings Cliffe had alerted it to the problem.

    Speaking after the cases, John Sweeney from the Agency said: "These are very disappointing incidents because they are both companies whose business is waste management. The regulations [banning such wastes from landfill] had been in place for a long time and they should have known better."

    He was also disappointed with the fines. "At the time these offences were drafted, their seriousness wasn’t realised. In today’s world, the public’s expectations of a suitable fine are higher."

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