Arcwood Recycling Ltd and its director Luke Barker of Derbyshire, were sentenced yesterday (4 March) at Derby Crown Court to charges relating to the pollution of the Ereswash Canal in October 2013 resulting from a fire at the company’s wood recycling site in 2012.
Arcwood Recycling Ltd (formerly A1 Pallets Ltd), occupies a site which consists of a former dispatch yard and a wood recycling yard.
Environment Agency Officers recorded concerns of poor or non-existent management systems for the site throughout 2012.
In April, officers highlighted that there was too much wood for the site to operate properly as the different piles could not be properly separated. In June, long-standing stockpiles of wood remained on site. By July, a Compliance Assessment Report was sent to Arcwood Recycling, detailing a breach of permit condition preventing waste being stored for more than three months.
The Environment Agency and Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service brought the charges, following a fire at the company’s wood waste site that burned for two months – from September 2012, finally being completely extinguished in October.
EA – “By not taking our advice, there has been a significant impact on local wildlife, as well as the high costs of responding to the incident. This prosecution demonstrates that we will not hesitate to prosecute those who put human health and the environment at risk”
Due to the size of the fire, fire fighting water run-off entered the Erewash Canal and killed thousands of fish, affecting over 6km of canal during the incident.
The Environment Agency spent a week elevating oxygen levels in the canal to an acceptable level, with a cost of £200,000 to reduce the impact on the environment. Thousands of pounds worth of resources were used to achieve this.
On 8 October 2012 mobile phone footage showed that wooden pallets were being burnt on site, resulting in the Environment Agency serving a suspension notice.
On 30 January 2013 Luke Barker was formally interviewed in his capacity as company director, but a request to interview him in a personal capacity on 4 June 2013 went unanswered.
A Regulation 60 Notice was served on the company, requiring the provision of information relative to a site diary and waste transfer notes relative to the site at Stanton by Dale. No response was received.
Arcwood Recycling Ltd was fined £8000 and ordered to pay £7500 in costs, for the offence prosecuted by the Environment Agency.
Luke Barker was given an immediate 8-month custodial sentence and disqualified from being a director for 8 years.
Speaking after the case, an Environment Agency officer in charge of the investigation said: “We had spoken with the operators on a number of occasions, seeking action to address our concerns about poor management of the site.
“By not taking our advice, there has been a significant impact on local wildlife, as well as the high costs of responding to the incident. This prosecution demonstrates that we will not hesitate to prosecute those who put human health and the environment at risk.”
In imposing his sentence the Judge noted that the Defendant had received and ignored repeated warnings from both the Environment Agency and the Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service about the risks posed by the excessive amount of wood being stored at the site. He noted the substantial fish kill and the huge clear up costs incurred as a result of the fire.
He also noted the harm suffered by neighbouring businesses and the environment. He remarked that Mr Barker’s culpability was high and that there had been a flagrant disregard for warnings given.
In mitigation, the judge took into account early guilty pleas and the fact that there was no loss of life.