Chemicals firm fined for leak

23rd December 2016


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Failing to comply with an environmental permit for its Sunderland site has cost Tradebe Solvent Recycling almost £39,000.

Sunderland Magistrates Court was told that, in January 2015, around 4,000 litres isopropyl alcohol (IPA) leaked from a pump due to the valve not being properly closed. Although IPA is not regarded as a hazardous chemical, some of the liquid seeped into groundwater.

The incident occurred when 23,500 litres IPA was transferred from a road tanker into one of the site’s fixed storage tankers. During the operation, three valves were opened, one of which was not properly closed after the transfer was completed.

The leak was not spotted until the next day. Tradebe Solvent Recycling, which processes and recycles a wide variety of waste chemicals, many of which are flammable, toxic or hazardous, informed the Environment Agency.

An investigation by the agency found management systems and operating procedures were deficient, including no formal inspections for pipes and sumps, and an inadequate operating procedure for the transfer of liquid chemicals.

District Judge Roger Elsey said the incident occurred due to an unfortunate combination of circumstances. He added there was significant mitigation and he was impressed by the efforts of the company to make changes, and the acceptance that further work is needed.

Andrew Clark of the agency said that, although IPA is considered a low risk to health and the environment, as it rapidly biodegrades in water, if the leak had involved a more dangerous chemical the results could have been far worse.

The firm was fined £27,000 and ordered to pay costs of £11,960. In a statement, it said: 'As a socially and environmentally responsible company, we fully regret the incident that occurred and accept the findings of the court. We were heartened by the judge’s comments recognising that this was an unfortunate set of events, and the recognition of the improvements we have made since.

'We have worked in close cooperation with the Environment Agency to develop an outline industry best practice for the design and inspection of tertiary containment systems and look forward to sharing this widely with the sector.'

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