A Wellingborough wood recycling company has been fined £3,000 and ordered to pay £3,000 costs for allowing wood dust to escape from its yard.
Larner Pallets (Recycling) Ltd admitted breaching the Environmental Protection Act 1990 for more than a year.
Wellingborough Magistrates’ Court heard on Thursday, May 24, that the company chipped waste wood at its site in Finedon Road industrial estate where neighbouring businesses complained that the dust was so heavy it looked like snow coming down.
Others said they could ‘taste’ the wood in the air, it caused pain and irritation to eyes, caused sneezing and covered cars, often difficult to remove as some of it contained sticky sap.
Two neighbouring businesses carry out specialist work on classic cars worth hundreds of thousands of pounds and could not afford to have layers of dust on them.
Miriam Tordoff, prosecuting for the Environment Agency told the court that in June 2010 the company had intimated that it would erect a building to overcome the dust problem but dust was still causing problems for neighbours more than a year later. Planning permission for a building was only granted in March 2012 and has not been built.
She said that even when the company had a dust suppression system there were several occasions when work was seen to be ongoing without the suppression equipment being used.
The court heard there was a history of dust complaints at the site, resulting in abatement notices being served by Wellingborough Council under statutory nuisance legislation in 2003 and 2004, neither of which was complied with.
Mrs Tordoff said the council was going to bring legal proceedings but were unable to in the statutory time. Further complaints were received in 2005 and 2007 and when a final one was received in 2009, the matter was handed to the Environment Agency.
She said as recently as February 2012 an Agency officer had witnessed dust billowing in the air as a lorry was being loaded with wood chip. There was no evidence of dust suppression being used.
In mitigation David McEwan on behalf of the company said they had offered their telephone number to neighbours to report dust escaping. The company has now arranged for a high netting fence to be put up.
After the hearing Environment officer John Jones said: “This prosecution was entirely avoidable and only started when it was apparent that continued advice and guidance was being ignored. Where such advice is continually ignored to the detriment of the public and surrounding businesses, the Environment Agency will prosecute to bring offenders into compliance.”
Larner Pallets (Recycling) Ltd pleaded guilty to between 17 June 2010 and 21 September 2011 keeping and treating controlled waste, failing in its duty to take all such measures applicable to them in that capacity as were reasonable in the circumstances in that they failed to prevent the escape of waste, namely dust from waste wood, from their control.