Veolia ES Cleanaway, a subsidiary of Veolia Environmental Services, has been fined £150,000 for breaching health and safety regulations after a fire broke out at the site in Preston, closing two motorways.
A 15-month investigation was launched by the Health and Safety Executive after a fire began in July 2007 at an area of the site used to store drums of chemicals. The blaze needed 66 fire-fighters to put it out and they had to close sections of the M6 and M55. Firefighters reported seeing drums rocketing in the air after catching alight.
A Veolia spokesperson said: We regret this incident and voluntarily closed the site for an extensive period afterwards while we worked closely with the HSE and other regulators to put in place a number of improvement measures.
Since the incident, operating procedures at the site have been reviewed and amended with transport and storage protocols improved. Veolia has also invested a significant sum to upgrade its storage infrastructure and has extended staff training programmes.
HSE principal inspector for Lancashire Linda Murray said: Our investigation showed that Veolia didnt do enough to make sure that the dangerous chemicals on its site in Preston were stored safely. The company also failed to provide adequate training for its staff.
The fire at the waste site put lives in danger and caused gridlock on local roads. I hope this case will make businesses think seriously about what they need to do to prevent fires in the future.
The firm was additionally asked to pay costs of £90,000.
HSE inspectors believe the fire was caused by lithium batteries igniting nearby waste materials. It was extinguished after around six hours and 132,000 litres of chemicals had been set alight.