Hefty fine for landfill operator who ‘put environment at risk’

Binn landfill site
Binn landfill site

A landfill operator that ‘put the environment at risk’ has been fined £20,000.

SITA UK Limited, which operates the Binn landfill site at Glenfarg, pleaded guilty at Perth Sheriff Court to breaching licensed conditions on volumes of leachate, a highly-polluting liquid.

The firm admitted that it breached licensing conditions at times between December 18, 2012, and June 12, 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 January 9, 2012, and March 8, 2013.

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.

The court heard that 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 December 2012 and June 2013, and the operator failed to inform SEPA of these breaches between January 2012 and 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.”