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Recycling firm fined for breaching landfill permit

SITA fined £110,000 for breaching environmental conditions of permit at Surrey landfill site

SITA UK Ltd have been fined a total of £110,000 for breaching the conditions of an environmental permit and for failing to comply with an Enforcement Notice for their Albury landfill site, near Guildford, in Surrey. The recycling operator was also ordered to pay £8,832 in legal costs.

SITA had exceeded the landfill site’s leachate limit set out in their environmental permit which was granted by the Environment Agency. During 2013, there were eight leachate wells which were found to be non-compliant with the permit requirement of a maximum leachate level of 3m above the base.

Redhill Magistrates Court heard how this type of waste deposited at Albury Landfill will degrade and produce both gas and leachate. In order to reduce the risk of leachate escaping the site and polluting the groundwater, the landfill is lined with an engineered system on the base consisting of clay overlain by a plastic liner. The clay extends across the base of each cell and up the side slope to a level of 3m above the base, with only the plastic liner rising higher.

The court heard how SITA UK had continued non-compliance of their leachate levels despite ongoing guidance and support from Environment Agency workers.

Neil Martin, pollution prevention and control officer at the Environment Agency, said: ‘We always seek to work with companies to help them operate within the law and we could not have done more than in this case. 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.’

In February 2014, SITA came into compliance with their leachate levels by supplementing treatment through an on-site leachate treatment plant and off site tanker. ‘The company is continuing to focus on completing the capping and restoration of the landfill, which will help reduce the generation of leachate at the site,’ Mr Martin explained.

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