The case was the latest to be heard concerning waste sent to the King’s Cliffe hazardous waste landfill site in Northamptonshire in 2004. The site was run by Atlantic Waste at the time and was being closely monitored by the Environment Agency (ENDS Report 384, p 4 ).
On 7 July 2004, United Utilities sent a batch of 205-litre containers to the site from its waste treatment facility in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. According to the consignment note it was "solid landfill waste", but an inspection by the site’s chemist raised concerns.
The Environment Agency was called and took samples which showed the waste consisted of "flammable powder containing volatile organic substances". These included ethyl acetate, heptane and dichloromethane.
The shipment breached landfill regulations which banned flammable wastes from being deposited in landfills in 2002.
United Utilities sent more illegal waste to the site on 10 September. Six 205-litre containers were again labelled as containing "solid landfill waste", but tests revealed the contents was highly flammable granular carbon.
Appearing before Corby magistrates on 5 June, the company pleaded guilty to two charges of failing to transfer waste with a proper consignment note, contrary to sections 34(1) and (6) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. It also pleaded guilty to two charges of recklessly making a statement which was misleading or false on a consignment note, contrary to regulations 5 and 18(3) of the Special Waste Regulations 1996.
It was fined just £2,000 for each offence and ordered to pay £3,943 costs. The maximum penalty is £5,000 per offence.
Speaking after the case, a United Utilities spokeswoman said the firm was "very sorry" the materials were incorrectly labelled. "This is the first time that this has happened and we have taken steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again. There was no actual environmental damage caused by this mistake."
In April, Veolia was fined £2,000 after admitting its recently acquired business, Cleanaway, sent liquid and flammable wastes to the landfill (ENDS Report 388, pp 52-53 ). Solvents With Safety was also fined £2,000 for similar offences.