The director of a marine waste management company has been held responsible for his firm's illegal disposal of toxic silt in a Cornish seaside conservation area and fined £25,000
A jury at Truro Crown Court found Peter Frampton, director of the company Oil and Water, guilty of offences under the Food and Environment Protection Act (FEPA) 1985, after his company failed to dispose of contaminated sediment in Falmouth docks properly.
In 2007, Oil and Water was contracted to demolish a wharf in Falmouth Docks and removal of the silt below by A&P Ports and Properties, as a part of the £8.8 million development project to create a 290-berth marina.
The silt was highly-contaminated by chemical compounds known as organotins, which were historically used on the bottom of boats to prevent the growth of growth of barnacles and weed. These chemicals are now known to be extremely toxic to the marine environment and can have detrimental effects to human health if they enter the food chain.
Under UK environmental protection legislation, dredging such toxic sediment requires a licence and specialist equipment to prevent the dispersal of toxins into the surrounding water. Disposal should then be made at specialist waste facility on land.
However, A&P Ports and Properties failed to mention the contamination in the sediment and Oil and Water had no such license and did not dredge the dock as required. Instead, investigators from the Marine and Fisheries Agency (now subsumed into the Marine Management Organisation) discovered in December 2007 that the firm was digging into the seabed and releasing the toxic sediment back into the dock, which is close to a site of special scientific interest, and near to oyster and mussel beds.
The company’s onsite diary recorded that workers had “dredged where the wharf was” and “shuffled silt around”.
In 2010, A&P Ports and Properties was forced to pay more than £630,000 in fines, costs and a confiscation order, for requesting that the contaminated silt be dredged despite knowing that it contained harmful toxins.
Frampton had denied charges that he was partly responsible for the illegal dumping of the silt, but was found to be in breach of his duty to supervise as a director of Oil and Water and that the offence was committed with his collusion.
In sentencing Frampton, Judge Clark QC said the case revealed a “public scandal that should be of great concern” and explained that, had Oil and Water not been in administration, he would have fined the company an additional £20,000.