Rare IPC appeal backs Agency enforcement action

The Planning Inspectorate has dismissed appeals by a foundry against enforcement action taken by the Environment Agency following repeated breaches of the company's integrated pollution control (IPC) authorisation. Meanwhile, the first appeals against Agency decisions under the pollution prevention and control (PPC) regime have been made.

Norton Aluminium Products, of Norton Canes, Staffordshire, operates a scrap aluminium melting and foundry process. The site is close to houses.

Norton appealed against four enforcement notices issued in summer 2002. The first was served on 1 May after the company failed to report visible releases of smoke and breaches of emission limits for particulates, dioxins and hydrogen fluoride. Norton had been having problems controlling emissions from its rotary furnace since 1998 and had been warned by the Agency on numerous occasions.

A second notice followed three weeks later to enforce the dioxin emission limit for the rotary furnace. Norton had fitted abatement equipment but the Agency says this proved ineffective due to the company's failure to keep it properly maintained.

Two further notices were served in July 2002, after residents alerted the Agency to smoke from the foundry which had been drifting across houses for almost three hours.

One notice related to Norton's failure to notify the Agency about the incident - although in its appeal the company stated that it did not do so because the release was of white smoke and the IPC authorisation only prohibits the release of black smoke. The other notice related to Norton's operation of the rotary furnace while abatement equipment was not operating effectively.

After the incident, Norton continued to add oily scrap to the furnace despite a warning not to do so, causing Agency officers to be called back to the site.

Norton complied with the notices - but lodged an appeal on the grounds that the Agency's action had been "unnecessary", "inappropriate" and "unfair". It claimed that the Agency "acted without due regard to their stated principle of proportionality."

The Planning Inspectorate dismissed all four appeals. It found that the Agency had sought to work constructively with the company and took "reasonable and appropriate" enforcement action only after other possible remedies had failed.

Pollution problems at the site have continued. On 3 March, inspectors served a prohibition notice to shut down the casting foundry following complaints about a very strong odour which affected one resident's breathing. The problem was caused by the failure of an activated carbon filter which had become exhausted. The Agency lifted the notice the following day.

Overall, the appeals mechanisms for IPC and IPPC is largely dormant. Just three IPC appeals are now outstanding, relating to enforcement, prohibition and revocation notices.

The Planning Inspectorate has also received the first appeals under the IPPC regime. Haz Industrial Services of West Bromwich and TJ&WM Cardy of Bury St Edmunds have both appealed against the Agency's refusal to issue a permit. Ten years ago, at the equivalent stage of implementing IPC, more than 70 appeals had been lodged.

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