Suez has expressed regret over the emission of contaminated water across a wide area of Cornwall for which it was ordered to pay more than £500,000 in fines and costs.
The case at Truro Crown Court concerned emissions from the company’s Connon Bridge landfill site near Liskeard, and followed what the Environment Agency (EA) called a “lengthy and complex investigation” lasting four years.
Suez said it had not sought to “shy away from these shortcomings”.
The company was fined £180,000 and ordered to pay £325,000 costs after admitting six offences under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010:
- failure to comply with leachate level limits specified by an environmental permit
- allowing leachate to overflow from a leachate extraction point
- unauthorised emissions of contaminated water
- failure to comply with water quality emission limits
- failing to notify the EA
- causing odour pollution
The case dated back to 2012 when heavy rain caused leachate levels beyond those specified by the site’s environmental permit.
The court had been told that, in January 2013, following reports from local people, EA officers found two nearby watercourses, the Widowpath and Connon streams, covered in sewage fungus for approximately 4km. Sewage fungus is a sign of organic pollution.
Residents complained of unpleasant odours caused by inadequately controlled emissions of landfill gas at Connon Bridge.
The EA said Suez was struggling to regain control of the landfill, with spillages of leachate on to uncontained areas of the site. Surface water had been contaminated by leachate, and leachate had compromised water quality in a groundwater drainage culvert beneath the site.
It found that unauthorised methods of disposal were used in an attempt to remove large volumes of contaminated surface water from the site, pumping it on to adjacent fields.
suez pollution connon bridge 2
The agency concluded it was the worst outbreak of sewage fungus in the area for 20 years, with “appalling” odours emanating from this site in 2013.
After the case, Suez issued a statement saying: “Like many other landfill sites around the country, Connon Bridge experienced issues managing leachate and landfill gas during the exceptionally wet weather conditions experienced throughout 2012.
“We have not sought to shy away from these shortcomings and pleaded guilty to six of the 11 charges at the earliest opportunity, co-operating with the EA throughout its investigations and the subsequent court proceedings. We contested the remaining five charges and these were not pursued.
“We deeply regret that, despite our best endeavours, we were unable to maintain full compliance at the site during 2012 and early 2013, but are pleased the judge recognised that our overall compliance record across our 211 operational sites (of which 11 are active landfill) around the country is good and we do our best to manage waste in compliance with our environmental permits.”
The company said it had striven to improve leachate management at the site and had worked with the EA to bring Connon Bridge Landfill back into compliance. The site is due to be closed by December 2018.