Grundon Waste Management has been ordered to pay £36,000 after pleading guilty to a technical breach of its operating waste management licence at its KnowleHill landfill site in Berkshrie.The site takes 60,000 tonnes of commercial and industrial waste a year.
The prosecution came after Environment Agency (EA) officers saw cracks in one of its waste slopes or cells – layers on the landfill site engineered to minimise the effect on the environment. Between the closure of the site at the end of that working day and the following morning, the cell suffered a slope failure, which caused thousands of tonnes of waste to slip, along with the collapsed wall. This moved it out more than 30m, leaving waste exposed and damaging the structure of other cells.
It was presumed by the EA that the cause of the collapse was due to the cell being built at a significantly steeper angle than allowed by its permit. But the EA could not prove this was the cause of the collapse.
It took Grundon almost two years to fix the slip, which increased the risk of gas emissions and odours because it had to tip the entire footprint of the site to support the remaining waste in the collapsed cell. The number of odour complaints from neighbouring residents peaked after the slope failure.
The company was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay costs of £27,986 and a £15 victim surcharge.
According to a statement from Grundon, it was unaware of the technical breach. It said: “The EA stated – and the Judge agreed – that there were no ‘aggravating features’ to this case and the technical breach of the condition did not cause any consequent contamination, nor was there any quantifiable risk. This was reflected in the low level of the fine imposed by the judge.”
Grundon technical director Stephen Roscoe said: “We are very disappointed that the EA chose to prosecute us for a technical breach of the permit – which it agreed did not cause a subsequent issue on the site.
“We will continue to operate the site to the highest standards to provide a high-quality service to local and regional waste producers.”
The company has installed temporary capping , additional gas boreholes and a flare to minimise the impact of the site.
EA officer Chris Mitchell said: “Not managing large landfill sites such as these properly, by ensuring that permit conditions are all being met, can cause damage to the environment and acute problems for people living nearby. Observing these conditions is extremely important.
“I’m pleased that the court has recognised the seriousness of this case, and we hope that companies such as Grundon Waste Management will be able to learn important lessons from it in the future.”