The case was heard by West Bromwich magistrates on 19 July. Sigmacast, formerly Triplex Components, was fined £15,000 with £1,560 costs for breaching a condition of its LAPC authorisation prohibiting "persistent visible fume", contrary to sections 6(1) and 23(1)(a) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
Fugitive emissions of fume from small furnaces are one of the key potential impacts from foundry processes. Recently revised official guidance has highlighted the issue as a priority for tighter control (ENDS Report 328, p 46 ).
The Sigmacast site has a history of causing air pollution problems because of fume emissions. In 1997, matters improved greatly when a bag filter was fitted to comply with LAPC upgrading requirements. A health impact study suggested that the improvement was linked with a reduction in levels of asthma in the area (ENDS Report 345, p 7 ).
However, over the last two and a half years the site has had a problem with iron oxide fume. Adrian Lacey, senior environmental health officer at Sandwell, said that the emissions had grown progressively worse, to the point where the process was causing "a fog of brown fume to drift onto local residents' properties." The pollution caused numerous complaints from 40-50 people.
Mr Lacey said that the problem was caused by Sigmacast operating the cold blast cupola at a high capacity, in order to maximise output. Abatement equipment could not operate effectively and fume escaped the furnace through the charge door. Mr Lacey said that the council had warned the company on numerous occasions but had been left with no choice but to prosecute.