The case against Armabridge Ltd was heard on 26 January at Torquay Magistrates’ Court after the Environment Agency (EA) brought charges against the company.
Armabridge was charged with three offences under Environmental Permitting Regulations (2010) and the Environmental Protection Act (2010), which included operating a regulated facility without a permit and failing to comply with two enforcement notices.
Armabridge operates two businesses from separate Torquay sites. The company’s Topsoil Torbay operates from Kerswell Garden Centre, and Skip-it is a waste transfer station and skip business on Barton Hill Way. Offences were committed on both sites.
‘Suspicious’ piles of waste found
A visit to the Kerswell Garden Centre site on 6 June 2014 alerted EA officers to ‘suspicious’ piles of screened waste, which the EA estimated to contain approximately 2,600 tonnes of hazardous waste. When analysed, the waste was shown to contain hazardous materials including asbestos, despite the site only being licensed to accept inert wastes.
Elevated levels of other substances such as sulphate, antimony, organic carbon and total dissolved solids were found, classifying the waste as ‘non-inert’ irrespective of the presence of asbestos.
Previous concerns about the company had been raised earlier in 2014 at its Barton Hill Way site. Waste found on this site was considered to be a risk to the surrounding environment due to the possibility of run-off entering ground water.
A large pile of mixed waste was also found to be stored outside the permitted area of the site, close to an electrical substation, and Armabridge was ordered to take measures to address these issues.
A further inspection of the site on 3 June 2014 revealed that no action had been taken and that the company was still failing to comply with the site permit, which lead to the issuance of an enforcement notice by the EA on 10 July 2014.
A follow-up inspection in October 2014 revealed that the company had not taken adequate steps to prevent run-off entering the drainage system and that the pile of rubbish outside of the permit area remained.
After pleading guilty, the company was fined £6,000, £2,000 for each offence, and ordered to pay £9,640.10 in costs.
Site “posed an immediate risk to the local environment”
Commenting on the case, Jacob Hess for the Environment Agency said:
“In our opinion this defendant found a cheap way to dispose of waste, but in saving money the company failed to take the necessary steps to protect the environment. Although the asbestos was mainly in a bonded form, any movement or treatment of this waste without proper controls in place may have lead to the release and spread of asbestos fibres putting the environment at further risk.
Inadequate infrastructure and storage of waste at the waste transfer site meant that site operations posed an immediate risk to the local environment.”
EA working on illegal waste sites
Part of the EA’s remit includes tackling illegal waste sites, although a corporate scorecard for the second quarter of the 2015/16 financial year showed that the regulator was significantly missing targets to clamp down on high-risk illegal operations.
From a baseline of 272 in 2013/14, the EA had set a target of reducing the number of high-risk illegal waste sites in England by 24 per cent to 206 sites by the fourth quarter of this year. However, the number has actually risen to 323, an increase of 19 per cent.
The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) is also aiming to help reduce the occurrence of waste infractions through its ‘Fighting waste crime’ campaign, which will run throughout 2016.
The campaign is aimed to help businesses ensure that they are complying with waste regulations and avoiding illegal operators and will focus on training and qualifications such as duty of care and technical competence.
More about how the EA tackles waste crime can be found in Resource’s feature article.