Waste firm Biffa hit with £27,000 fine for stench at Wearside rubbish dump

Joyce Dixon of Friends of Houghton.
Joyce Dixon of Friends of Houghton.
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A WASTE management company has been fined £27,000 after residents kicked up a stink about smells from a rubbish dump.

Houghton residents complained to the Environment Agency (EA) about the landfill site.

Inspectors visited the dump in Houghton Quarry, which was twice found to be smelling so badly that it was breaking the law.

Owner Biffa admitted two offences under the Environmental Planning Regulations Act at Sunderland Magistrates’ Court.

Prosecuting for the EA, Paul Harley said inspector Gary Wallace visited the tip on February 7 last year.

He found a large pile of uncovered waste which had a foul-smelling liquid – known as leachate – running from it.

On March 2, inspector Alice Evans was called out to investigate a smell of rotten eggs in Cathedral View. Residents complained it was “pungent, gassy and a strong rotten stench”.

However she did not visit the landfill site, as it was about 9pm.

Defending, Ray Clarke called the two incidents “isolated lapses”.

He said: “Biffa would like to apologise for these regrettable incidents.

“We regret the circumstances which led to the prosecution and would like to apologise to the court, the regulator and the individuals who were affected on these particular days.”

A further three charges were dropped by the EA.

Magistrates fined Biffa £15,000 for the first offence and £12,000 for the second.

Costs of £8,250 were also ordered.

Joyce Dixon, 86, from Newbottle, a member of pressure group Residents Against Toxic Site, sat through the hearing.

Afterwards she said: “We have suffered throughout the years and it has been hell.

“We are happy that they have been brought to court.”

In a statement, Buckinghamshire-based Biffa, said: “Biffa is committed to operating all waste facilities to high standards in order to ensure the continued protection of the environment and therefore apologies for the situation which led to this prosecution.

“In addition Biffa has worked hard to rectify the situation.

“Throughout investigations, it co-operated fully with the Environment Agency and a new site management team has undertaken a series of engineering works.

“This has included the installation of further has control pipe work and site capping work in order to prevent a reoccurrence.

“The company is also working closely with its regulators and hopes to liaise more closely with key stakeholders in the community to further improve relationships.”

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