The Environment Agency has defended its enforcement procedures after a report from a task group set up by Swindon council partly blamed it for a 2014 fire at Averies Recycling, which burned for 57 days.
The dispute relates to a fire in 2014 at the site in Marshgate, Swindon, which involved 1,000 tonnes of general and building waste, with the subsequent clear-up believed to have cost in the region of £500,000.
The report, which went before Swindon’s scrutiny committee on Monday (7 June), said the fire could have been avoided had the council and Agency worked together better, and followed up on enforcement notices after a smaller fire in 2013 (see letsrecycle.com story).
It also said communication and delays in the use of powers “prolonged the response time and clear up”, which ultimately led to additional public purse costs.
The task group also made a number of recommendations to the Agency, including inviting it to produce a quarterly report on all sites in Swindon to give reassurance that the Agency was undertaking the appropriate checks.
In a statement given to letsrecycle.com, the Agency said that while it could not comment on the report’s findings as it was not shared in advance, it pointed to the successful convictions it secured.
In 2016, two brothers who served as directors of Averies Recycling were sentenced at Swindon Crown Court after pleading guilty to breaching environmental regulations (see letsrecycle.com story).
In 2019, the company’s director was also issued a banning order (see letsrecycle.com story).
The Environment Agency said: “Our investigators worked closely with a number of agencies, including Swindon borough council, to bring Lee and David Averies to court. The men showed total disregard for the environment.
“Our investigators worked closely with a number of agencies, including Swindon borough council”
“The Environment Agency secured a 12-month suspended prison sentence for Lee Averies, who was also given a five-year ban from the waste industry. David Averies was fined £4,208 and ordered to pay costs of £50,000. Our complex investigation also obtained a proceeds of crime order forcing Lee Averies to pay back £200,000.
“We continue to do everything we can to prevent waste crime and, as we did with Averies Recycling, we punish those who profit from it. Anyone who suspects waste crime is urged to contact us on 0800 807060, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.”