Plastics firm fined under IPC

A Swansea-based packaging manufacturer, Viscose Closures, has been ordered to pay £4,000 for a leak of 280 tonnes of effluent which contaminated soil at its site. The incident highlighted inadequate maintenance procedures.

Only a handful of companies have been prosecuted under the IPC regime in recent years. In 2004, there were just three (ENDS Report 360, p 31 ).

On 11 January, Viscose Closures was fined £2,000 by Swansea magistrates with £2,000 costs after pleading guilty to a charge of failing to comply with a condition in its IPC authorisation, contrary to sections 6(1) and 23(1)(a) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. The condition requires that plant be kept in a satisfactory state of repair.

Viscose Closures makes components such as heat shrink tubes and tamper-proof seals for bottles and plastic caps. Its factory is located in Swansea Enterprise Park.

The court heard that the incident occurred in November 2003. The company had alerted the Agency after an inventory check identified a loss of some 280 tonnes of weak ammonium sulphate.

An Agency inspection found that the effluent was carried in a half-pipe gully underneath the production line. The grouting which sealed the gully had been attacked by the corrosive effluent. A hole had developed allowing the effluent to leak for over two-and-a-half days through the foundations of the building and into the ground. The leak contaminated soil at the site but did not affect the nearby river Tawe.

Agency inspector Grant Wood said: "This incident could have been prevented if the company had put in place procedures for inspection and maintenance." Since the incident, the company has revised its management systems.

He added that initial repairs conducted by the company addressed only the specific hole through which the leak occurred and not the channel's overall poor state of repair. It took the company three months to complete proper repairs.

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