A South Lanarkshire haulage and recycling company has been ordered to pay a record £200,000 penalty for illegally dumping waste and endangering the environment
Livingston Sherriff Court passed down the unprecedented sentence in a case described by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) as “one of Scotland's most significant environmental crimes”.
A jury trial in September found Doonin Plant Limited and its director, Gary Doonin, guilty of keeping controlled wastes, including plastics, electrical components and plasterboard, without a licence and in a way likely to cause pollution.
In 2010, a SEPA investigation found that the firm had dumped hundreds of tonnes of construction and demolition waste at the former Woodend Colliery in Armadale, West Lothian, which is owned by the firm.
SEPA discovered that the firm had covered the waste with a thin layer of soil, and had not taken basic actions to protect the environment from the decomposing waste, such as lining the site.
As a result, the waste was likely to leach metals and chemicals into the soil, posing a threat to groundwater and local waterways, and release methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, according to SEPA.
“By carrying out such activities, the company and its director demonstrated a complete lack of consideration for the environment,” said Ian Buchanan, an area manager at SEPA, reacting to the record sentence. “Justice has been done for Scotland's environment … and we hope the sentence acts as a deterrent to any operators considering breaking the law.”
The prosecution was not the first time Doonin Plant had been found to have breached environmental legislation. In August 2010, the firm was fined £90,000 after pleading guilty to similar waste offences.
Craig Harris, head of the wildlife and environmental crime unit at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service commented: “Doonin Plant and Gary Doonin carried out activities with a total disregard for the environment – and not for the first time.
“The severity of the crimes against the environment was marked by this case being prosecuted before a jury. The judgment will send out a strong warning to any other unscrupulous businesses who conduct themselves in this illegal manner.”
Reacting to the sentence, a spokesperson for the company confirmed that it would be appealing the level of the fine. He claimed the former colliery had waste management licence exemptions, allowing the company to store waste and carry out recovery or recycling operations at the site.
Livingston Sherriff Court postponed sentencing the firm’s director for a year, warning Doonin that he could face prison if any further offences occurred during that time.