In court: May 2015

28th April 2015

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  • Pollution & Waste Management ,
  • EU ,
  • UK government


Liz Bignell

A round-up of the latest environmental court cases.

Commission launches legal action against the UK

A failure to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from the Aberthaw coal-fired power station in Wales has led the European commission to refer the UK to the European Court of Justice.

Under Directive 2001/80/EC on the limitation of emissions of certain pollutants into the air from large combustion plants, the so-called LCP Directive, member states had until 1 January 2008 to reduce emissions of a number of pollutants from power plants, including NOx. Emissions of NOx from Aberthaw have consistently exceeded permissible levels, says the commission. It points out that the plant near Barry operates under a permit that sets an NOx emission limit of 1200 mg/Nm3, whereas the LCP Directive sets it at 500 mg/Nm3.

The operator, RWE npower, says it is committed to reducing emissions from the 1555MW plant and that it continues to invest in measures to upgrade equipment, including replacing boilers.

The commission said it had noted that UK authorities and the operators were working to find a solution and welcomed recent announcements that investments would be made to upgrade the plant. “But at present the plant continues to operate under a permit which allows it to emit high levels of the toxic gas NOx,” it stated.

The commission is also referring the UK to the European Court of Justice over its failure to ensure that urban wastewater is adequately treated in a number of areas. It says treatment is inadequate in four regions, while Gibraltar has no treatment plant. In a further 10 areas, wastewater is discharged into sensitive environments, such as freshwaters and estuaries, without meeting the required standards.

Under the urban wastewater treatment Directive (91/271/EEC) member states must ensure effective collection and treatment, as untreated water poses risks to human health, inland waters and the marine environment.

Noise costs waste firm almost £25,000

Waste company Wood Yew Waste has been fined £19,500 for causing noise pollution and for failing to comply with notices to take action to reduce noise generated by its site at Woodbury Salterton in Devon. Exeter magistrates’ court also ordered the firm to pay £4,019 costs.

The site has had a permit for wood recycling since 2010, but there has been a number of compliance breaches there over the past few years. In 2013, the Environment Agency served an enforcement notice on the site to reduce noise pollution, mainly from two wood chipping machines, but no improvements were made and a second notice was issued in early 2014.

Although the company, which describes itself as the south-west’s largest recycler of waste wood and plasterboard, had agreed to implement measures to cut noise, including installing insulation boarding in a building, these had not been made by the deadline. The magistrates described the firm’s inaction as reckless, saying it had been given enough time to comply and had received repeated advice from the agency, which it ignored.

Wood Yew Waste pleaded guilty to three charges under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010: two for breaching its permit in relation to noise pollution and the other for failing to respond to the enforcement notices.

Landfill operator fined £55,000

City Plant has been fined £55,000 and ordered to pay costs of £17,824 by Beverley magistrates’ court for failing to comply with enforcement notices issued by the Environment Agency in 2014.

The notices required the company to install a leachate extraction system at its landfill site near Gilberdyke in east Yorkshire to collect methane gas, but the firm failed to meet the deadlines set by the agency. The regulator had required City Plant to install the gas collection system by the end of July and an engineered cap by the end of October.

Nearby residents had complained for several years about the smell and noise from the site, which is near to the M62 and at one stage was more than double its permitted height of 14m.


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