Directors of a waste management company in Hereford have been issued suspended prison sentences after two major fires on their premises.
David Lawrence and Andrew Gibson, formerly of Lawrence Skip Hire, pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to comply with an environmental permit and three charges of treating, keeping or disposing of controlled waste in a manner likely to cause pollution of the environment or harm to human health.
The offences were committed after fires broke out at a waste facility in Kidderminster in December 2012 and June 2013.
Mr Lawrence – operations director and designated technically competent manager – was sentenced on July 4 to nine months imprisonment suspended for two years and ordered to complete 180 hours of unpaid work, as well as being given a £270 fine.
Mr Gibson – who was the company chairman and sales director – was given a sentence of four and a half months suspended for two years, as well as being told to undertake 90 hours of unpaid work and pay a £2,700 fine.
The facility was run with an environmental permit under the trading name Lawrences Recycling and Waste Management Ltd.
Worcester crown court heard that failures at the company led to waste self-combusting, causing two major fires and a pollution incident.
According to the Environment Agency, between August and December 2012 Lawrences Recycling and Waste Management stored excessive waste in breach of their permit at their facility, despite officials warning against this. This failure to manage waste safely was the cause of both fires.
His Honour Judge Cartwright, presiding over the sentencing, found that both Lawrence and Gibson had been negligent in the lead up to the fire in December 2012.
Judge Cartwright also found that before the June 2013 fire both men had ignored warnings from the Environment Agency and their own staff about the risks the excess waste posed.
A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said: “These directors operated their waste recycling facility in a way that blighted the community with flies, vermin and odour, and put people’s health and businesses at risk by not adequately assessing and controlling the risks of fire.
“They continued to operate with flagrant disregard after the first fire with no insurance and no fund set aside to manage these risks, leaving the taxpayer to pick up the bill when an incident occurred and creating misery for their neighbours.”
Lawrences Recycling and Waste Management went into administration in September 2013. The Environment Agency, Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service, Wyre Forest district council and Worcestershire county council had to cover costs of demolishing the building, extinguishing the fire and controlling pollution until the site was sold on.