A man has been fined after admitting to two offences of illegally burning a range of waste materials on farmland.
Robert Shaw, 60, pleaded guilty to two separate offences of disposing controlled waste in a manner likely to cause pollution of the environment or harm to human health.
He was fined £1,200 and ordered to pay costs and a victim surcharge amounting to £570.
Prosecuting for the Environment Agency, Chris Bunting told the court that on May 29 and August 20, 2018, Shaw incinerated large amounts of mixed household waste on fires measuring approximately 20ft by 20ft.
On May 29, 2018, the Environment Agency received reports of a waste fire burning at Swan Castle Farm, close to Shotton Colliery. Some of Shaw’s family members live at the farm cottage, although Shaw himself does not live at the farm.
The Agency received a further report about a waste fire at the farm on August 20, 2018, and officers made an inspection the following day, finding the smouldering remains of material including clothing, food tins, metals and plastics across a large area of land.
Mr Shaw admitted at the scene that he had burned the material because he had been clearing out waste from the farm house and Shaw was cautioned by officers.
Shaw voluntarily attended an interview with the Environment Agency where he explained he had been clearing the farm and outbuildings and burned the material because of the lack of waste collections by the local authority. He said the accumulated waste had been attracting vermin and he had made complaints to the council.
He accepted responsibility for the fire and acknowledged that much of the waste would not have been removed by the local authority as part of ordinary waste collection. Shaw stated that he had not taken the waste to a local tip as he claimed the tip would not accept it. He also admitted responsibility for the reported fire in May 2018.
On both occasions, Shaw said he considered the material to be a hazardous mess and wanted to get rid of it as quickly as possible. He did not consider at the time that he was doing anything wrong.
Shaw, from Renny’s Lane in Durham, stated in interview that in future he would hire a skip and remove waste in a safe and legal way.
Paul Whitehill, waste enforcement team leader for the Environment Agency in the North East, led the investigation.
He said: “Burning waste can only be carried out under strictly controlled conditions, for example, at permitted high-temperature industrial waste incinerators.
"Burning waste illegally can have serious implications for human health and the environment, such as releasing harmful emissions into the air.
"Environmental laws relating to handling, treating and disposing of waste are intended to protect to the environment and members of the public. Free advice and information is available to residents, land owners and businesses about the legal and safe disposal of waste.
"On this occasion, the court increased the fine to reflect the avoided, lawful disposal costs. This will hopefully deter others from believing waste burning will be tolerated.
"Waste crime incidents such as this, caused by international breaches of the law, have a serious negative impact on our environment and are something we work hard to prevent."