Legal loophole limits punishment for fly-tipping

A demolition business which fly-tipped 50 drums of chemical waste in the Manchester area was fined £17,000 in October.

Details of the fly-tipping incidents were given in May (ENDS Report 208, p 15 ). One involved eight 45-gallon drums of waste containing low flash-point solvents which were dumped at a civic amenity site in Stalybridge in April. Some of the chemicals leaked from the drums, posing a hazard to employees and members of the public.

Another 42 drums of similar waste were dumped in a lay-by near Rochdale in an area which serves as a catchment for several water supply reservoirs. Again, some of the drums leaked, and 34 tonnes of contaminated soil had to be removed as a precaution.

The company concerned, TC Demolition, was charged with a breach of section 33(1)(c) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which prohibits the disposal of controlled waste in a manner likely to pollute the environment or harm human health.

At a hearing before Stalybridge magistrates on 2 October, the company pleaded guilty and was fined £2,000 and £15,000, respectively, for the two offences, and ordered to pay £6,000 costs.

The outcome of the case was not entirely satisfactory. TC Demolition has now been wound up and its owner, Thomas Wood, is reported to have set up another business. This means that Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council, which spent £17,000 in removing and disposing of the drums and contaminated soil arising from the second incident, is unlikely to be able to recover its costs.

Secondly, the waste producer also escaped punishment even though a clear breach of the "duty of care" provisions in section 34 of the 1990 Act apparently occurred. The GMWDA took a lenient attitude in this case because section 34 came into force just three weeks before the offences took place, and because it wanted the company to act as a witness for the prosecution. The firm was named in court as British Millerain, a textile finishing business.

The only mitigating factor is that Mr Wood is unlikely to find any waste regulation authority willing to register his business as a waste carrier.

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