Last week John Anthony Wood, David Langhorne and John Bernard Charles Campbell, who were all company directors of waste firm Viridis Group, pleaded guilty to waste offences at Peterlee Magistrates’ Court. Viridis Group had two environmental permits for a waste transfer station and the manufacture of soil at a site in Bishop Auckland, County Durham.
The court heard that Environment Agency (EA) officers visited the site in 2017 and saw attempts by a vehicle to deposit shredded mixed waste next to an area designated as the soil manufacturing facility.
The EA said paperwork from the driver described the waste as ‘soil’, which would attract a lower rate of landfill tax. Officers stopped the misdescribed waste from being tipped and noted that a large amount of shredded waste products – around 17,000 cubic metres - rather than soil was on the site, which was a breach of the company’s permit.
The EA then issued an enforcement notice ordering the illegal waste to be removed, but this was not complied with.
The court heard that in the months that followed, the waste, which was dumped on land not authorised or engineered to manage polluting wastes, started to smell and produce a leachate, impacting on the environment.
An EA spokesperson said: “During sentencing, the judge noted that the offences were perpetrated for financial gain at a potentially huge environmental cost. The land here was not designed for waste such as this and their actions could have had a really detrimental impact on the environment, as well as undermining local waste operators.”
As well as being fined a total of more than £2,500 and ordered to pay costs amounting to £16,000, all three men were disqualified from acting as company directors for five years.
Wood pleaded guilty to neglecting to ensure the conditions of an enforcement notice to remove illegal waste from the site was adhered to, while Langhorne pleaded guilty to the same offence as well as a separate charge of neglecting to ensure the company complied with its own management systems in relation to pollution prevention.
Campbell had previously pleaded guilty to neglecting to ensure the conditions of an enforcement notice to remove illegal waste from the site was adhered to, consenting to the company not complying with its own management systems in relation to pollution prevention and a third change of consenting to receive and deposit waste not authorised by the permit.