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Biffa fined £27,000 for 'persistent' landfill odour

Biffa Waste Services has been fined £27,000 for persistent odour problems at its Houghton Quarry landfill site in Sunderland.

The company pleaded guilty at Sunderland Magistrates Court to two counts of failing to comply with its environmental permit for the landfill site in relation to odour. It was ordered to pay £8,250 in costs to the Environment Agency (EA).

The court heard that Biffa was sent a warning letter in February 2008 after reports of bad odours coming from beyond the site boundary.

An EA officer then visited the site in February 2010 after receiving complaints from a resident. He found odours emanating from excavation work and leachate - liquid formed by decomposing waste - running from the waste, which was left uncovered between Saturday lunchtime and Monday. A second officer visited the site in March that year and found more had been excavated, without using proper measures to prevent odours escaping from the site.

Biffa was interviewed under caution in June 2010. It introduced an odour management plan and entered a guilty plea at the first opportunity, as well as apologising to residents, the court and the EA.

Environment officer Gary Wallace said: “We have been working closely with Biffa since these breaches to improve its site management and, as a result, there have been improvements.”

A Biffa statement said: “Biffa is committed to operating all facilities to high standards in order to ensure the continued protection of the environment, and therefore apologises for the situation which led to this prosecution.

“In addition, Biffa has worked hard to rectify the situation. Throughout investigations, it co-operated fully with the EA, and a new site management team has undertaken a series of engineering works. This has included the installation of further gas control pipe work and site capping work in order to prevent a reoccurrence.

“The company is also working closely with its regulators, and hopes to liaise more closely with key stakeholders in the community to further improve relationships.”

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