Polluting firm ignored own management system

30th April 2014

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Related tags

  • Waste ,
  • EMS ,
  • Corporate fine ,
  • Prosecution ,
  • Environment agencies


Laurie McGee

Waste treatment business Eco Oil has been fined £30,000 after staff at its Ipswich plant failed to follow the site's management system and allowed oil to escape into the River Orwell, breaching its environmental permit

In July 2012, heavy rainfall overwhelmed an underground tank at the site used to separate oil from contaminants. The rainwater mixed with the liquid in the tank and overflowed into the site’s concrete yard, where it flowed into a drain that emptied into the river.

The pollution contaminated a four-mile stretch of the Orwell, close to designated sites of special scientific interest and special protection areas for birds and wetlands. A dozen swans were affected by the oil and one died.

Ipswich Magistrates’ Court was told that staff at the waste oil treatment plant had failed to make contingency plans to deal with heavy rain, despite Eco Oil’s operating procedures, which had been certified against ISO 14001 less than eight months before, stating they should do so.

The firm also failed to notify the Environment Agency of the incident and the pollution was discovered by the Felixstowe Volunteer Coast Patrol Rescue Service during a routine patrol.

Agency officer Adrian Sherman said: “The company failed to check the weather and the site was unmanned at a time when heavy rainfall was predicted. The effect [of the pollution] on the river was serious but could have been avoided altogether. The port authority acted quickly and, because of this, the oil was contained to prevent it affecting downstream protected habitats.”

The court fined Eco Oil £15,000 for allowing polluting matter to enter the Orwell without an environment permit and £15,000 for failing to manage its site in accordance with its permit, namely a written management system to manage pollution risks. While acknowledging that the firm had improved its practices and procedures, the magistrates said the pollution had caused “significant environmental damage”.


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