Permit breach costs waste operator more than £110,000

15th January 2015

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Lucy Harper

Waste company SITA UK has been fined £110,000 for breaching the conditions of its environmental permit and for failing to comply with an enforcement notice at a Surrey landfill site.

The penalty was imposed on SITA for exceeding the leachate limit set out in the environmental permit for the Albury landfill site near Guildford. According to the Environment Agency, during 2013 eight leachate wells at the site were non-compliant with its permit, which allowed a maximum leachate level of three metres above the base.

The type of waste deposited at Albury will degrade and produce both gas and leachate, which could escape the site and pollute groundwater, the agency said. The regulator claimed that leachate levels continue to exceed the site’s limits despite the ongoing guidance and support it provided.

The agency’s pollution prevention and control officer Neil Martin said: “Although prosecution is the last resort, SITA UK left us with no choice but to take the matter to the courts.

“This shows how seriously we take these matters and demonstrates that we will not allow the environment to be put at risk as a consequence of not complying with our environmental permits.”

Compliance with the permit for Albury was only achieved in February last year after SITA moved some leachate off site for treatment and treated the remainder onsite, the agency said.

The company is now focusing on completing capping and restoring the landfill, which will help reduce the generation of leachate at the site, it added.

In addition to the £110,000 fine, Redhill magistrates’ court also ordered SITA to pay £8,832 in legal costs.

A spokesperson for SITA UK said: "Environmental compliance is a key priority for SITA and we have invested considerable sums in managing leachate at our Albury landfill site, bringing in specialist contractors and developing new infrastructure to avoid the risk of harm to the environment.

“We are committed to ensuring that we maintain leachate within permitted levels and will continue to work closely with the agency as the site is restored."

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