Offences cost paper company £455,000

17th May 2011


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IEMA

Environmental offences including misleading the Environment Agency (EA) have cost paper recycling company St Regis £455,000.

Exeter Crown Court was told that records about the amount of effluent discharged into a stream from the company’s mill in Cullompton, Devon were falsified. The EA, which brought the prosecution, alleged that St Regis and the site’s technical manager Christopher Steer were involved in the deception.

The site, Higher Kings Mill, operates under a pollution prevention and control (PPC) permit. A condition of the permit is that St Regis monitors its own effluent treatment plant and reports the results to the EA.

Stricter controls on effluent quality came into force in early 2005, but rather than invest between £300,000 and £1.2 million in upgrading the site’s treatment plant, to ensure it complied with the new discharge limits, the company told the EA it planned instead to install an oxygenation system in an attempt to improve the quality of effluent discharged into the River Culm.

The company trialled the equipment in early 2005 and reported “positive” results. Subsequent effluent quality results submitted to the agency by St Regis aroused suspicion because they were close to the permitted limits.

In March 2008, an EA officer asked to see the company’s daily environmental record sheets and noticed that one had been altered from a value well in excess (100mg/l) of the limit to just below the permitted maximum of 60mg/l. The court also heard that in order to assist its deception, the company installed a freshwater dilution system to dilute effluent with river water before it reached the sampling point. This dilution system was kept secret from the EA.

St Regis, the largest recycler of waste paper in the UK, was fined £162,000 after it was convicted of 19 charges under the PPC Regulations 2000. The judge also ordered it to pay £225,000 in a confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act, and £68,000 in court costs.

In a statement, the company said new measures had been introduced, including more intensive environmental auditing and testing regimes, to ensure there is no repeat of the environmental lapses that led to the firm being prosecuted.

However, it refutes the allegation that the firm intentionally made a false entry in a required EA record and says it is appealing against these charges and the associated fines.

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