Waste management firm Sita UK has been fined £110,000 for breaching conditions of its environmental permit at a Surrey landfill site.
The company was also ordered to pay £8,000 in legal costs at Redhill Magistrates Court on 13 January.
Sita exceeded the Albury site’s leachate limit set out in its environmental permit with eight non-compliant leachate wells in 2013. This resulted in an Enforcement Notice from the Environment Agency (EA).
The company continued non-compliance of its leachate levels despite ongoing guidance and support from EA officers, according to the agency.
In 2013, pollution prevention and control officers made a number of visits to monitor the landfill, which confirmed that the leachate levels remained high.
Officer Neil Martin said: “We always seek to work with companies to help them operate within the law. Although prosecution is the last resort, Sita UK left us with no choice but to take the matter to the courts.
“We will not allow the environment to be put at risk as a consequence of not complying with our environmental permits.”
In February 2014, Sita became compliant with its leachate levels by tankering the liquid for treatment elsewhere. It is is now focusing on reducing leachate generation by capping and restoring the landfill site.
A company spokesman said: “Environmental compliance is a key priority for Sita UK. We have invested considerable sums in managing leachate at our Albury landfill site, bringing in specialist contractors and developing infrastructure to avoid the risk of harm to the environment.
“We are committed to ensuring that we maintain leachate within permitted levels, and will continue to work closely with the EA as the site is restored.”
Sita’s permit requirement was a maximum leachate level of 3m above the base of its wells.
Waste deposited at the landfill produces gas and leachate while it degrades. In order to reduce the risk of leachate escaping the site and polluting groundwater, the landfill is lined with an engineered system on the base consisting of clay overlaid with a plastic liner.
The clay extends across the base of each cell and up the side slope to a level of 3m above the base, with only the plastic liner rising higher.