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Bad operators pile it on for the rest of us

Unregulated waste sites or those run in flagrant breach of their permits are totally unacceptable. Legitimate operators know that rules are needed and want those wilfully ignoring them to be brought to book.

Of course, defendants may be justified in crying foul and, if appropriate, cleared of any charges. But it is hard to find much in favour of the operation of the Waste4Fuel site at Orpington. For three years, material has been piled upon material, causing severe distress to local residents and a nightmare for the emergency services dealing with an average of one fire a month during the past year.

At the moment, the Environment Agency (EA) is taking exceptional action in directing contractors to remove around 2,000 of an estimated 12,000-15,000 tonnes. This action will allow the fire brigade to get to hot-spots in the waste although, ironically, earlier this month that operation was delayed by yet another blaze.

The EA is to be commended for this present course, especially as it is having to foot the bill and cannot have any great confidence of getting the money back from a company that, since December 2013, has been operating under a company voluntary arrangement. But the agency has not always got it right.

Last November, it went to court to obtain an order requiring Waste4Fuel to remove combustible waste within months. It failed to do so. The EA launched contempt proceedings but they were thrown out by a highly critical judge.

It has also been a challenge for those now picking up the pieces. Mark Luck, whose company is helping to remove excess waste, has been accused by residents of being one of those responsible for delivering it in the first place, something he denies.

Those operating legitimately run sites frequently do so in the face of considerable public cynicism, usually unearned. Horror stories such as that at Orpington, which have attracted considerable media attention, undo so much good work.

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