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 to five charges of breaching its environmental permit during 2010 and 2011, relating 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 and said Biffa had breached its permit by allowing leachate to escape from the site, and by failing to notify authorities of the pollution.
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.
Tim Horlock QC, mitigating – “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.”
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.