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"Reckless" Biffa fined £60,000

Waste management company Biffa has been fined £60,000 for breaching permit conditions at its hazardous waste installation in Wednesbury.

Three charges were brought by the Environment Agency on 22 May in relation to poor storage of containerised hazardous waste and inadequate management of third party contractors -  breaching its Pollution Prevention and Control permit. 

The firm, which operates Westbury Waste Management Resource Centre, was ordered to pay £11,500 in costs and a £15 victim surcharge in addition to the fine.

The Environment Agency officer involved in the investigation was Iain Storer. He said: This result highlights the need for operators of hazardous waste installations to comply with their permits, the conditions of which have been designed to prevent accidents or incidents occurring, or to minimise the potential impacts of any that do occur. Im pleased to report that standards at the Wednesbury site are now greatly improved.

The first incident came to light when the Environment Agency served notices to the site in November 2006 requiring improvements to management procedures for site security and contractor management. This action came after a contractor worked on a tank at the site, which partially collapsed while other contractors worked close-by. This contractor did not have the appropriate permits and there were other hazardous waste tanks in the area at risk of damage with the potential release of chemicals.

Further breaches lead the Environment Agency to serve an enforcement notice in 2007. Breaches included spillages of waste, inadequate labelling and improper storage of incompatible wastes were some of the breaches identified in an audit.

After three more inspections on the site in 2007 Biffa still had not complied with the enforcement notice.

Magistrates called Biffas actions reckless but not financially motivated.

Biffa director of environment and external affairs said: "We were let down badly by our contractor who we expected to perform his work professionally and diligently. His actions could not have been anticipated and the management system that we accept we should have had in place would not have prevented this incident. However, under the Regulations, this is a strict liability matter and we accept that the ultimate responsibility rests with us. Since these incidents a number of improvements have been put in place [for instance] there have been changes to management and all activities now meet the required standards."

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