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Waste company Biffa fined £105,000 over Houghton-le-Spring landfill site pollution
WASTE company Biffa has been fined £105,000 for failing to manage pollution from a North-East landfill site – resulting in the contamination of an aquifer.
The company which operates the landfill site in the former Houghton-le-Spring quarry pleaded guilty at Sunderland Magistrates Court today (Wednesday, February 20) to five charges of breaching its environmental permit during 2010 and 2011.
The breaches relate to the firm’s control of a substance called leachate, a foul-smelling liquid containing toxic substances.
David Brooke, prosecuting for the Environment Agency, said Biffa’s management of the liquid running from the tip was inadequate.
He said Biffa had breached its permit by allowing leachate to escape from the site, and by failing to notify authorities of the pollution.
The Environment Agency carried out an investigation after pollutants were found in groundwater at nearby boreholes in April 2010.
It found that the source of the pollution was leachate leaking from the landfill’s protective lining wall.
Environment Agency officers believed this to have been caused by the construction of an access road in July 2009, which inadvertently provided a route for the leachate to pass over the protective walling.
In a separate incident leachate was seen spilling from one of the site’s leachate storage tanks.
Tim Horlock QC, mitigating, said Biffa took its environmental responsibilities seriously and had co-operated fully to prevent further pollution.
He added: “As a company, an apology is offered. It is genuinely intended and is expressed with contrition and regret and is offered in particular to those in the local community.”
He stressed that although the aquifer was affected, there would be no impact on the safety of the public drinking water.
Passing sentence, district judge Steve Earl said he accepted it had not been a “deliberate flouting of the law”.
Residents Against Toxic Site (Rats) group chairman Colin Wakefield said: “Obviously the fine and costs is a substantial figure. But in the context of Biffa it is not a huge amount of money.”
Biffa was also ordered to pay £26,949 in costs, and a victim surcharge of £15.
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