Landfill company ordered to pay £50,000 for silt pollution incidents

A landfill operator that polluted a Welsh stream with silt has been made to pay over £50,000 in fines and costs - only five months after paying out £60,000 following a similar incident.

On 13 October, Welshpool magistrates heard how a man who lived next to the Nant-y-Bradnant stream, near Llanidloes, Powys, complained to the Environment Agency that the watercourse had turned grey on 5 January 2004.

An Agency officer visited the nearby Bryn Posteg landfill site to find that silt-laden water was overflowing from a settlement lagoon into the stream. The operator, Sundorne Products (Llanidloes), was undertaking construction work to create more void space.

Any contaminated run-off water should have been held in a settlement lagoon, but this had proved too small for the purpose.

The court heard that the Agency had warned Sundorne of the need to protect the watercourse before the works began. The company did not have a consent to discharge into the stream and even if it had, the discharges would have breached its terms.

Over the next month, three other residents complained to the Agency about pollution of the stream.

In mitigation, the company said the problems were caused by an unusually prolonged period of heavy rainfall.

Sundorne pleaded guilty to three charges of causing polluting matter to enter controlled waters contrary to section 85(1) of the Water Resources Act 1991. It was fined £33,750 with £18,090 costs.

The conviction came a mere five months after Sundorne was ordered to pay £60,000 for a similar incident at the site in 2003 (ENDS Report 365, p 53 ). The pollution resulted from a failure to repair a leak in a settlement lagoon.

Sundorne was also fined a total of £25,000 in 2004 for storing fridges on unlicensed land (ENDS Reports 349 , p 62 and 354, p 65 ).

Despite this lacklustre performance, the Bryn Posteg site was awarded a pollution prevention and control permit in June 2004. An Agency spokesman explained: "At the time of the permit being granted, the only offences the company had been convicted of related to duty of care - there were no convictions relating to the incorrect management of the site."

In March this year Sundorne was sold by Evans Logistics to Potters Waste Management. Potters has since employed consultants to review surface water management at the landfill and has submitted new design proposals to the Agency.

Speaking after the case, Agency officer Sam Morgan said: "Sundorne's negligence seriously compromised the watercourse's quality. Our hope is that the new owners will be able to enter into a more constructive relationship with the Agency than the previous owners."