'End of road' for campaign against 120,000 tonnes of illegal waste
- Credit: Submitted
Campaigners have “reached the end of the road” in trying to understand why there have been no prosecutions over the dumping of 120,000 tonnes of illegal waste.
Town councillor Roy Gerstner believes the Environment Agency (EA) should still act despite agreeing to remediation works to cover over the illegal waste at the former Saxon Pits, Whittlesey.
“We have reached the end of the road for this,” Cllr Gerstner said.
“However, the lobbying and campaign will still carry on, in respect of future planning at the site.
“It is deemed to be a waste and minerals site, and as such we have to rely on the EA to do their job properly – something I and others believe has not been happening in the past.”
He added: “I’d like to thank everyone, who supported not only myself, the nearby residents but the whole community which would have been further affected by the non-conforming waste.”
Stephen Rice, a land agent/chartered surveyor acting on behalf of site owners East Midlands Waste, addressed eight town councillors on Thursday.
Mr Rice briefed councillors on the remediation and restoration proposals that have now been approved by The Environment Agency.
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“Mr Rice, gave a very ‘slick’ and ‘professional’ presentation, naturally he knows the subject well and was very fluent in his delivery,” said Cllr Gerstner.
“I told him that the people of Whittlesey were and are disappointed in that 122,858 tonnes of illegal and hazardous waste had been deposited at the Saxon Pit.”
Cllr Gerstner said had it not been for the “very determined” lady who reported smells, the scandal may not have been revealed.
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Cllr Gerstner said the complainant had refused to be “fobbed off by the EA and others”.
Had she not persisted, he said, it is likely “further considerable amounts of illegal waste may have ended up in the Saxon Pit over months or even years”.
Town councillor Chris Boden, also the leader of Fenland District Council, was not at the briefing by Mr Rice.
However, he had earlier this year confirmed that “of the borehole samples of that waste analysed by the Environment Agency, 86 per cent have been found to contain sufficient chemical contaminants to render them hazardous”.
When tests revealed the toxicity of the illegal waste, the Environment Agency quietly dropped legal action.
He said: “To my mind, the Environment Agency has failed abysmally to fulfil its legal functions.
“But the Environment Agency faces perilously little accountability for its actions and inactions, especially at local level.”
The unlawful dumping took place between October 2017 and February 2018, according to the EA.
“But why have there been no prosecutions and fines for the operating company?” asked Cllr Boden.
“Why has no action been taken against the directors and/or whoever else may have been responsible? “
He also wants an explanation from the EA about their refusal to prosecute.
The EA says in February 2018 they identified “significant visual contamination”.
Studies showed this to amount to 122,858 tonnes of Automotive Shredder Residue (ASR) by the current operator buried within the void between October 2017 and February 2018.
It excludes wastes which may have been accepted and buried prior to October 2017.
ASR is a waste by-product of the metal recycling and end-of-life vehicle sector following shredding, shearing or fragmentising and is mostly comprised of mixed plastics, foam, rubber and glass.
Final remediation and restoration proposals have been and begun on June 21.
Once complete monitoring and containment measures will be engineered and incorporated into the final restoration scheme.
“This infrastructure will ensure long term monitoring can take place,” says the EA.
“Once fully landscaped, the restoration scheme should provide ecological benefit including for example standing water environments, reed beds, grassland and scrub habitat.
“The site may be partially open for public access.”
The EA says it is continuing technical assessment of the application by Johnsons Aggregates and Recycling Ltd to accept and process 500,000 tonnes of non-hazardous Incinerator Bottom Ash (IBA) and inert waste.
Ironically, a second Whittlesey recycling company, East Anglia Resources Ltd, was successfully prosecuted by the EA for “reckless” health and safety breaches.