Unauthorised operators convicted under air pollution controls

A cats and dogs home and a quarrying business in north-west England which failed to heed repeated warnings to stop operating processes without authorisation have been fined for breaching the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Local authorities have generally been reticent about resorting to the courts to enforce the new air pollution control system introduced by the 1990 Act, but in the two current cases they were left with little option.

In March, the proprietor of Leigh Cats and Dogs Home, David Clements, appeared before Leigh magistrates on four charges alleging that he had operated an animal carcase incinerator without authorisation in the course of several months during 1993.

The company collects animal carcases from some 250 veterinary practices and had been burning them in three small incinerators on the site. However, it was doing so without planning permission, which had been refused by Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council, and without authorisation under the 1990 Act as well, which the council had refused after concluding that the incinerators were incapable of complying with the emission standards laid down.

Despite these refusals the incineration operation was continued, provoking complaints from the site's neighbours. A Wigan environmental health officer told Leigh magistrates that he had visited the site on many occasions and on four of these had seen smoke emissions from the chimney which were consistent with the burning of cats and dogs.

Mr Clements pleaded not guilty to the charges, but was convicted and fined a total of £2,000, with £470 costs. The court also ordered him to stop using the incinerators immediately. A fresh application for a new incinerator has been submitted, but the company still does not have planning permission for the operation.

Meanwhile, on 19 April, Rufford Top Dress Supplies appeared before Warrington magistrates charged with 11 offences under section 23 of the 1990 Act. All related to the operation of a sand dryer without authorisation.

The process was found to be operating in a quarry in the district in March 1993 - twelve months after an application for authorisation was due. Warrington Metropolitan Borough Council warned the company to apply within 28 days, and sent a second warning letter in July. Both this and other correspondence was disregarded.

Pleading guilty to all 11 charges, the company argued in mitigation that responsibility for the failure to apply rested with an operations manager who had since been dismissed. It also pleaded that it had found the application form unduly complex.

Magistrates fined Rufford Top £550 for each offence, giving an unusually large penalty of £5,500, with costs of £150.

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