HMIP prosecutes for persistent dust nuisance

HM Inspectorate of Pollution (HMIP) has finally cracked down on a synthetic aggregates plant in North Yorkshire which has been causing a dust nuisance for years. The operator was prosecuted successfully in October and received what appears to be the first fine in excess of the old statutory maximum for an air pollution offence.

The case concerned a plant operated by Pozzolanic Lytag next to National Power's coal-fired power station at Eggborough, near Selby. Pulverised fuel ash from the power station is processed into pellets, sintered and graded into lightweight aggregate for use in construction projects.

Dust emissions from the operation have provoked public complaints and adverse comments by HMIP for many years. In 1986, for example, a letter of infraction was sent to the firm following complaints of dust emissions from a material stockpile. Defects in the plant's electrostatic precipitator also resulted in heavy dust emissions in 1986 and again in 1987. And although HMIP's annual district report for 1987 noted an apparent "willingness on the company's behalf to come to grips with longstanding problems," the complaints continued.

Last April, HMIP decided to check Pozzolanic's dust emission monitoring data by carrying out its own measurements. The tests revealed that particulate emissions from the main stack were five times in excess of the "presumptive" limit of 115mg/m3 set by a "best practicable means" (BPM) note in 1981.

A breach of a presumptive limit is taken as an indication that BPM is not being used to abate emissions, and it was the failure to use BPM with which Pozzolanic was charged under section 5 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

At a hearing before Selby magistrates on 22 October, a video recording showing excessive dust emissions from several low-level sources at the works was also offered in evidence by HMIP. The company pleaded guilty and was fined £3,500, with £3,500 costs.

The fine is thought to be the first in an air pollution case to exceed the former statutory maximum of £2,000 under the 1974 Act. Under the Offshore Safety Act 1992, a maximum fine of £20,000 has been available to magistrates since March for breaches of section 5 or of an improvement notice under section 21 of the 1974 Act. The new maximum brings the 1974 Act into line with recent environmental legislation such as the Water Act 1989 and the Environmental Protection Act 1990, and will be available to HMIP until all the processes registered for air pollution control under the 1974 Act receive authorisations under the 1990 Act.

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