A timber recycling company director has been given a 6-month prison sentence, an electronic ankle tag and a curfew order for a month for failing to implement a system to reduce risk of fire.
David Lewis McEwan was also ordered by Northampton Crown Court to pay £1,800 towards costs for the Environment Agency, which prosecuted the director for two offences.
His prison sentence was suspended for 18 months and he will have to wear an electronic tag for a month.
The director was at the helm of Larner Timber Recycling in Bevan Close, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, which went into administration in September 2013.
Mrs Anne-Lise McDonald, prosecuting, told the court that from May 2012 the company chipped and sorted waste wood. It breached a condition to have a written management system to protect people and the environment. When after nearly a year it did produce a management system it failed to follow the system leading to a greater risk of fire.
She said the site had accumulated a huge volume of waste wood, which was stored without any fire breaks.
John Jones, EA – “This prosecution was entirely avoidable had the company complied with our advice. We repeatedly tried to help it comply with its permit but despite many visits and much advice, little was changed”
Wood particles from chipping escaped from the site polluting neighbours’ sites and causing a further breach of its permit.
McEwan was also the director of an adjoining business Larner Pallet Recycling, which was prosecuted in May 2012 for causing dust pollution.
McDonald told the court that McEwan was repeatedly asked for adequate management and emissions plans but none were forthcoming until April 2013.
She said: “A notice was served two months later to prevent the acceptance, shredding, pulverising and chipping of wood to prevent the serious risk of pollution from fire.”
In December 2012 there was a fire at Larner Timber Recycling, which started in an old shipping container used to store woodchip. The fire service had difficulty getting to the fire because of the amount of wood on site.
In May and June 2013 piles of chipped wood were seen smouldering and despite advice from Environment Agency officers to create fire breaks, insufficient were created.
After the hearing Environment Agency officer John Jones said: “This prosecution was entirely avoidable had the company complied with our advice. We repeatedly tried to help it comply with its permit but despite many visits and much advice, little was changed.
“Waste sites have a duty to ensure that their operations are managed properly to ensure they do not present a risk to neighbouring companies, nor to the environment. If they refuse to comply, or deliberately ignore advice supplied by site Inspectors, they may be prosecuted and risk going to jail.”
In mitigation Mr Steven Evans said McEwan tried to keep his business going but did not have the money after being mis-sold financial products.
He said McEwan had done some things such as buying water cannons to keep the dust down.
The court was told that McEwan had a history of non-compliance.
Judge Timothy Smith said McEwan had “put his head in the sand”.
There were a number of issues with the site with waste being stored for more than three months, water cannons not used effectively and fire breaks not properly installed. The temperature of the waste was not properly monitored to locate hot spots.