Ignoring Agency’s warnings cost scrap metal dealer £30,000

A scrap metal company that continued to run an illegal waste site for 18 months after being told to stop by the Environment Agency has been fined £12,000. The company’s director has also been fined £7,000.

The Environment Agency began investigating North Butte Metal Company in 2003 after receiving complaints about waste at its Staffa Road site in Leyton, east London.

Agency officers visited the site and found waste - including scrap metal, containers full of "corrosive acid" and car batteries - littering the site.

In May that year, the Agency wrote to the company and its director, Richard Smyth, warning that the company was operating illegally and that it should stop storing waste until it had obtained a waste management licence.

The warning was, however, ignored and the company continued to accept and store waste at the site.

During 2004, the Agency visited the site 13 more times finding everything from old cars stacked five metres high to "huge piles" of tyres spilling out of sheds.

The company made little effort to limit the environmental impact of such operations, in spite of the Agency’s visits. The old cars, for example, were not kept on an impermeable surface, as required by the Agency. A hydraulic grab machine was also allowed to leak oil over the site.

The Agency issued a formal cessation notice to the company in April that year, but once again the company chose to ignore it and continued operating illegally.

Appearing before Walthamstow magistrates on 26 April, the company pleaded guilty to two charges of keeping controlled waste without a waste management licence and one charge of keeping controlled waste in a manner likely to cause harm to the environment, all contrary to sections 33(1) and 33(6) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. It was found guilty of six such charges and fined £2,000 for each, with £10,000 costs.

Mr Smyth, meanwhile, pleaded guilty to six charges of keeping waste without a licence and one charge of failing to comply with an enforcement notice contrary to section 59(5) of the Act. He was fined £7,000.

At the time of writing, the company has still failed to clean up the waste. The Agency is "considering" further enforcement action.

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