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Waste company fined for illegal sewage operation

Posted on 19th January, 2023

Waste company fined for illegal sewage operation at Warminster.  Waste management company Cleansing Services Group Ltd, has been fined more than £72,000 after it treated sewage without a permit, despite knowing that they were acting illegally.

Based at Fareham, in Hampshire, the company operates throughout the country.  The company was charged that:

Between 6 November 2019 and 30 September 2020, Cleansing Services Group Ltd, of Barnes Wallis Road, Segensworth East, in Fareham, was operating a regulated facility, except under and to the extent authorised by an environmental permit, namely a waste operation including the deposit and storage of controlled waste, on land at Kingsdown Farm, Longbridge Deverill, in Warminster. This was in respect of no environmental permit in force, contrary to regulations 38(1)(a) and 12(1)(a) of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016.

The company appeared before Bristol magistrates’ court on 18 January for sentencing on a charge of failing to comply with an exemption for the storage of sewage sludge, brought by the Environment Agency. They were fined £72,127 and ordered to pay £9,827.15 in costs and £180 statutory surcharge. The company had pleaded guilty at an earlier court hearing.

The court heard that the company was contracted to treat sewage waste at Kingsdown Farm, in Longbridge Deverill, near Warminster, in Wiltshire.

An investigation by the Environment Agency during October 2020 found that the company did not have the legally-required permits to screen sewage before it entered tanks ready for spreading on land. A skip at the farm contained sewage “rag,” including gloves and plastic. The landowner was not involved in the work and was unaware of the unpermitted screening activities.

In a written submission, the company accepted that no permit was in place at the site for the screening and removal of debris before storage and later injection of the sludge into the land. They described this as an “oversight.”

But the company had previously applied for a judicial review of what constituted treatment requiring a permit in relation to section 3 exemptions, and whether the removal of rag was in fact a treatment requiring a permit.

waste company fined for illegal sewage operation
One of the tanks used to spread sewage illegally on a Wiltshire farm (Photographs courtesy of the Environment Agency)

In a judgment handed down in February 2019, Lord Justice Rafferty concluded:

“The screening process carried out by the claimant to remove debris from the sludge is unquestionably a form of treatment,” and that, in his view, it was not particularly burdensome to arrange for the screening of debris in sludge at an appropriately-permitted treatment facility.

Lord Justice Rafferty

Following the court hearing, Stephanie Marriott, of the Environment Agency, said:

Cleansing Services Group operates nationwide, and as a large company that had gone to the trouble of applying for a judicial review, knew full well they were acting illegally at this farm.

As a regulator, the Environment Agency will not hesitate to pursue companies that fail to meet their obligations to the environment.

Stephanie Marriott, Environment Agency Officer

Waste Exemptions

A waste exemption is a waste operation that is exempt from needing an environmental permit. Each exemption has very strict limits and conditions that you must meet.

Most exemptions must be registered with the Environment Agency although there are some exemptions that do not need to be registered – for example, storing your own waste in most circumstances.

If you cannot meet the limits and conditions of an exemption, you may need to apply for an environmental permit.

When you register an exemption, details about your company and the exemption will be added to the Environment Agency’s public register of exempt waste sites and could be subject to visits by the regulator to ensure that you are complying with the conditions of the exemption.

If you require environmental advice for your company’s activities, please contact one of the Jacksons team.

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