The Environment Agency today announced that it will prosecute two organisations as a result of its ten-month “Byker ash” investigation in Newcastle. Newcastle City Council will face 15 charges, and a company called Contract Heat and Power will face four charges in court.
The case will centre around ash spread on footpaths in allotments and other places in Newcastle.
The Agency will apply to Newcastle Magistrates for a court hearing within the next few days and an initial court hearing is likely in the New Year.
Newcastle City Council will be charged with 15 offences concerning the illegal deposit of waste on land, disposal of waste in a manner likely to pollute the environment or cause harm to human health, and duty of care, under Sections 33 and 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, and Regulation 2 of the Environmental Protection (Duty of Care) Regulations 1991.
Contract Heat and Power, of 6 Brookside Industrial Estate, Glatton Road, Sawtree, Cambridgeshire, will face four charges, concerning duty of care offences and breaches of authorisation, under Sections 6, 23, and 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
The “Byker ash” issue concerns the use of ash from Newcastle's combined heat and power plant (operated by Contract Heat and Power under contract to NCC) at Byker for constructing paths in city parks and allotments. This allegedly took place over a number of years – some of the ash was subsequently shown to be contaminated with dioxin. Earlier this year, remediation of the affected sites took place which resulted in the ash being removed to a licensed landfill site.
An Agency spokesman said: “The Environment Agency has carried out an investigation which has taken more than 1,000 hours to complete. After careful consideration by the Agency's enforcement panel it is now appropriate that a prosecution is brought against both the city council and the company it appointed to run the Byker plant.
“As an environmental regulator, the Agency has a duty to protect the environment for this and future generations. If the Agency believes that environmental legislation has been breached, a number of courses of action can be taken. The most serious of these is to bring a prosecution, and the Agency believes this to be the appropriate response in the circumstances.
“This has been a long and time-consuming investigation. The issue has raised strong feelings among the local community. The decision to take court action is evidence of how seriously the Agency views this matter.”
The Agency will not be releasing specific details of its investigation into “Byker ash” because it plans to use this information as evidence in court and does not wish to prejudice forthcoming proceedings.