In court: December 2015

23rd November 2015

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  • Pollution & Waste Management ,
  • Water ,
  • Control ,
  • Prevention & Control


Liam Cox

A round-up of the latest environmental court cases.

Oil firm fined almost £500,000 for permit breaches

Essar Oil UK has been fined £497,284 at Chester Crown Court for breaching permit conditions at the Stanlow Oil Refinery in 2012.

The court was told that on 31 July 2012 the roof of a storage tank failed under pressure, causing 3.7 tonnes of oil to be released into the atmosphere. Fine oil droplets fell over an area measuring 5.3km X 0.8km. Less than four weeks later, on 19 August, five tonnes of oil from the refinery entered the Manchester ship canal after failures in the site's effluent management system. The discharge forced the closure of the waterway for two days. Both incidents triggered extensive and expensive clean-up operations.

Richard Bradley, prosecuting for the Environment Agency, told the court that the first incident was due to a "catastrophic failure" at the refinery, which had run out of space to store long-residue oil in the usual hot tanks and was attempting to cool the liquid for storing in cool tanks. Long-residue oil is used for making oil products and the Stanlow operators failed to cool it enough, causing the tank to explode. Essar spent £1.2 million on the clean-up. The pollution of the canal occurred after the system to filter oil from water failed. That incident cost Essar a further £210,000 to clean up. The company pleaded guilty to both offences.

Judge Shetty said: "In my judgment this fine will achieve the statutory purpose. The penalty is not only proportionate and just but will bring home to the management and shareholders the need to protect the environment."

A spokesperson for Essar Oil UK, which is part of an Indian multinational corporation, said: "We take these matters very seriously. We conducted a thorough investigation following the incidents in 2012 and measures were put in place to ensure they could not happen again."

Nigel Glasgow for the regulator said: "Permit breaches of this nature are taken seriously by regulators and the courts. Since these incidents the agency has worked closely with Essar, which has improved its environmental performance."

In addition to the fine, Essar was ordered to pay costs of £40,000.

The company acquired the refinery at Ellesmere Port from Shell in 2011. The plant has the capacity to refine up to 296,00 barrels of oil a day, about 15% of the UK's demand for motoring fuel.

Packaging violations aid charities

Baby food company HiPP has paid £414,960 to charities for failing to meet its producer responsibility obligations.

The Producer Responsibility (Packaging Waste) Regulations require eligible companies to register as producers of packaging and to recover and recycle packaging waste. HiPP failed to meet these requirements between 2004 and 2011.

The Reading-based firm agreed an enforcement undertaking with the Environment Agency, which includes a payment to three environmental charities. Under the arrangement, HiPP is making three equal annual payments totalling £138,320. The Bumblebee Conservation Trust will receive £75,000; the Woodland Trust £189,960; and the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust £150,000. HiPP has also pledged to remain compliant in future.

£214,000 fine for water company

Plymouth Crown Court has fined South West Water £214,000 for breaching controls at its Camel's Head sewage treatment works in the city and failing to stop sewage polluting the River Tamar.

The court was told that, between March and September 2013, South West Water failed to operate and maintain the treatment works in accordance with good operational practice and to properly treat effluent. Judge Lawrie said there had been a complete failure to anticipate and take measures to counter some of the operational problems affecting the treatment works. "It is clear that water from this site did on a number of occasions contain polluted material and the fact that happened on an assortment of occasions and over a period of time should have prompted greater efforts by South West Water to reduce that significant risk."


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