Perthshire landfill operator fined £20,000 for licence breaches

date01 May 2015

SITA UK Limited was fined £20,000 at Perth Sheriff Court yesterday (30 April 2015) for its handling of leachate, a potentially polluting liquid, at its Binn Landfill (Glenfarg) site.

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The company pled guilty to breaching licensed conditions on leachate volume at times between 18 December 2012 to 12 June 2013, and to failing to report breaches to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) (also in contravention of a licensed condition under the Pollution Prevention and Control (Scotland) Regulations 2000) between 9 January 2012 and 8 March 2013.

The Binn Landfill (Glenfarg) site is operated by SITA UK Limited. SITA UK Limited holds a Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) permit from SEPA which allows the operator to accept a total of 3.5 million tonnes of household, industrial and commercial waste, with a maximum of 372,000 tonnes per annum.

In late 2012 SEPA officers became aware of breaches relating to leachate. Leachate is a highly polluting liquid which can contain high levels of ammoniacal nitrogen, heavy metals and organic compounds. The PPC permit puts a limit on the amount of leachate permitted in a site to prevent stress on the lining of the collection facility. If the leachate volume exceeds the two metre high limit there is a possibility that leachate will escape from the site and may result in pollution of the surrounding environment.

The volume of leachate was identified as being over the permitted two metre high limit on various dates between 18 December 2012 and 12 June 2013, and the operator failed to inform SEPA of these breaches between 9 January 2012 and 8 March 2013.

Enforcement action taken by SEPA against the site, over a number of years, has included site inspections, liaison meetings with SITA, advisory letters and warning letters.

Stephanie Sinclair, SEPA’s investigating officer, said:

Landfill sites are required to be designed and maintained in a way that minimises the risk to the environment. The two metre limit for the leachate is required to ensure the base and sides of the landfill provide a barrier between the landfill and the environment.

“By failing to maintain the level of leachate below two metres, SITA UK Ltd put the environment at risk.”

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Notes to Editors

The exact charges SITA UK Limited pled guilty to were:

(1)   Between 18th December 2012 and 12th June 2013, both dates inclusive at Binn Landfill, Glenfarg, Perth you SITA UK LIMITED, being a permit holder in terms of regulation 6 of the aftermentioned regulations, did fail to comply with a condition of said permit, namely 6.2.1 which states interalia that leachate accumulation at the low point of each distinct leachate collection system of the site landfill is kept below 2 metres depth in that between 18th December 2012 and 12th June 2013, both dates inclusive leachate within said system was in excess of 2 metres depth; CONTRARY to the Pollution Prevention and Control (Scotland) Regulations 2000 Regulation 30(1)(b) as amended, and the Pollution Prevention and Control Act 1999, section 2

(2)   Between 9th January 2013 and 8th March 2013, both dates inclusive at Binn Landfill, Glenfarg, Perth you SITA UK LIMITED, being a permit holder in terms of regulation 6 of the aforementioned regulations, and permit operator did fail to comply with a condition of said permit, namely condition 2.3.1 which states in the event of an incident the operator shall immediately … interalia… iv) identify and execute measures to minimise the Emissions and/ or malfunction together with the effects thereof and; vi) notify SEPA of the incident in that on 9 January 2013, 23 January 2013, 7 February 2013, 19 February 2013, 20 February 2013, 1 March 2013 and 8 March 2013 you did fail to notify SEPA of an incident, namely that leachate levels within operational phases and cells had exceeded 2 metres depth, and you did fail to take effective steps to minimise the malfunction and reduce the levels of leachate; CONTRARY to the Pollution Prevention and Control (Scotland) Regulations 2000 Regulation 30(1)(b) as amended, and the Pollution Prevention and Control Act 1999 section 2.