A former director of a recycling company has been found guilty of dumping around 61,000 tonnes of hazardous waste, five years after a raid by the Environment Agency (EA).
In September 2011, Churngold Recycling obtained around 31,000 tonnes of contaminated soil that included heavy metals and asbestos from a BMW factory in Oxford, and stored the material at its site on an industrial estate in Hallen, Bristol.
The material was then mixed with further waste and concrete and used in the foundations of a Co-operative Group distribution centre which was being built in Avonmouth.
The EA was alerted by a Churngold employee, and this led to what the EA described at the time as the “biggest ever hazardous waste raid conducted in the UK”.
Following a covert operation, EA officers and Avon and Somerset Police raided several sites and arrests were made.
The EA brought a number of charges against Churngold Recycling and two directors at the time the offences were carried out, John Barcham and Lee Phelan.
Both Churngold and Phelan were found guilty by a jury of illegally depositing waste at the Co-op site. The jury was unable to record a verdict for Barcham, who faced the same charge.
Phelan admitted breaching permit regulations, and Barcham was found guilty of the same offence by majority verdict.
Phelan was also found guilty of ”dealing with waste in manner likely to cause pollution to the environment or harm to human health”, but again no verdict could be reached for Barcham.
Both defendants were found not guilty of depositing waste at a second site and attempting to pervert the course of justice.
The EA has chosen not to seek a retrial on charges against Barcham that the jury could not reach a verdict over. The charges will remain on file and sentencing will be at a later date.
The investigation had been delayed by a civil action undertaken by the company over the legality of the EA’s prosecution.
At the time of the 2012 raid, Churngold Recycling said that it had been involved in a “technical dispute” with the EA.
Phelan and Barcham resigned as directors in May 2013.
The company changed its name to South West Recycling Limited earlier this year, and is currently a non-trading entity.