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Smelly landfill told to cough up £32,500

A Ware landfill run by Biffa Waste Services has been slapped with a £32,500 bill after an Environment Agency investigation into smells and odours reported by families on a nearby housing estate.

Biffa Waste Services were found guilty of four counts of breaching their Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) licence and fined £20,000. The company was also ordered to pay £12,500 costs by Hertford Magistrates on Tuesday 6 November.

Westmill Landfill opened in the early 1980's accepting household, commercial and industrial waste, regulated by the Environment Agency. The first section of the quarry was filled by the summer of 2004 and tipping moved to the next site under a new PPC licence.

However, calls to the Environment Agency began just six days after tipping began in the next section of the quarry in July 2004, with residents on the Vicarage Estate describing the smell as 'like standing behind a dustcart'.

An Environment Agency officer attended the site and substantiated the claims. Initially the Environment Agency worked with Biffa, putting together a plan to improve the site and reduce the impact on the residents. However, with complaints still high, the Environment Agency issued the site with an Enforcement Notice in November 2004. This required them to prevent odours polluting the environment or a serious detriment to the amenity of the locality

Complaints continued as the site received around 90 lorries every day – tipping up to 1,000 tonnes of waste. With no improvement after the Enforcement Notice had expired, the decision was taken that a prosecution was the only course of action left.

The case has taken many hearings through the courts with the company pleading not guilty. The first case, in April 2006, was dismissed by the judge. However, the Environment Agency appealed to the Queens Bench Division of the High Court on 12 December 2006 who found in the Environment Agency's favour, with a retrial ordered at Hertford Magistrates.

Environment Agency Officer Clare Richards said: “This is a great result for the environment and local community, and has been achieved by more than three years persistent hard work by the Environment Agency.

“The site has caused misery for many people living on the Vicarage Estate and I have often had residents phone up in tears, frustrated both at the ongoing effect on their lives and at the continual delays in bringing our case to court. However, it has been worth the effort and I believe this will act as an incentive to other operators to take better care of their local environment and community.”

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