In court: June 2016

13th June 2016


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Martin Baxter

A round-up of the latest environmental legal cases including Yorkshire Water and Ward Recycling.

Yorkshire Water fined a record £1.1m for pollution incident

Leeds Crown Court has fined Yorkshire Water a record £1.1m for illegally discharging sewage that polluted the River Ouse near York.

The firm pleaded guilty to three environmental offences relating to the operation of its Naburn treatment works in Fulford. Problems at the site were identified first in August 2013, when officers from the Environment Agency carrying out a routine monitoring survey spotted effluent being discharged from the works into the Ouse. An investigation discovered that the discharge had been caused by the failure of a pump.

Three pumps are required to cope with the volume of sewage passing through the works. However, the backup had not been operational for five months, which was a breach of the site’s environmental permit. With just two pumps working, around 6,000 cu m of sewage flowed into emergency storage tanks, before overflowing through an old outfall into the river. The agency said the pollution damaged water quality for up to 1 km.

Agency officers who inspected the works 13 months later found that the backup pump had been taken away for repair and had not been replaced.

Judge Guy Kearl QC said: ‘The inability of a company with an annual turnover of £1bn to keep in its stores a replacement pump and spares, in the knowledge of the extended lead-in time for replacement parts and pumps plainly amounts to a reckless failure to put into place a system which could reasonably be expected to avoid the commission of the offence.’

Mike Riby, environment management team leader at the agency, said: ‘Water companies have a legal duty to ensure that their operations do not pose a threat to the environment. In this case, Yorkshire Water failed to have in place appropriate pumping equipment needed to process sewage at its Naburn treatment works.’

Yorkshire Water said that since April 2015 it had been operating a distribution centre to supply spare equipment and parts so that it could replace and repair broken pumps.

Leeds Crown Court also ordered the company to pay £27,073 costs. In January, Yorkshire Water was fined £600,000 by the same court for a water discharge in October 2013, which polluted a lake with sewage at Walton Colliery Nature Park, Wakefield, and killed hundreds of fish.

£370,000 penalty for waste offences

The owner of waste company Ward Recycling, has been fined £270,000 for persistent breaches of environmental permits at two sites in Derbyshire, and for illegally operating at another site in the county. Derby Crown Court also ordered Donald Ward to pay prosecution costs of £100,000. The fines included costs avoided by the company of £40,000.

The court was told that between March 2012 and June 2013 the company had failed to operate properly its two permitted sites. This resulted in fly infestation at the Griffon Road site, while the quantities of waste stored at Hallam Fields posed a fire risk. Meanwhile, waste, including redox fines and fragmentiser fluff, was stored at Old Stanton Iron works without appropriate permits or in accordance with exemptions.

Ward pleaded guilty to three offences under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations.

Ford Mexico fined $1.05m

Mexico’s Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection, Profepa, has fined US automotive company Ford just over 18 million pesos ($1.05m) for selling vehicles in the country without proper environmental certificates.

Profepa said 4,690 vehicles sold by Ford were missing 12 compliance certificates relating to gas emissions and noise levels. It said the fine, imposed under the General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection, was for each certificate that was not obtained before Ford and Lincoln brand vehicles (model years 2015 and 2016) were imported and marketed in Mexico.

In a statement, Ford Mexico said the vehicles met Mexican emissions standards and that penalty was due to it not obtaining the emissions certificates in time. It added that procedures had been updated since to prevent a re-occurrence.

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