Two waste operators running an illegal site and a driver have been given suspended prison sentences after the Environment Agency found that asbestos had been fly-tipped around Essex, Hertfordshire and Kent.
A1 Bins and Waste Ltd’s director David John Tuffen and manager Nigel Lee Hickman both pleaded guilty to running an illegal site at Towerfields Business Park in Benfleet, where Environment Agency officers found 72 large skips full of asbestos waste.
The driver, Moses Benjamin Brede, pleaded guilty to dumping five loads of waste asbestos.
Tuffen was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 200 hours unpaid work. Hickman was given an 18-month prison sentence suspended for two years and ordered to carry out 200 hours unpaid work.
Brede was sentenced to 12 months prison for each of five offences to run concurrently and suspended for two years. He was also ordered to pay £500 contribution towards costs.
A hearing to deal with a proceeds of crime application has been adjourned to later this year after which any fines for duty of care offences and any costs will be imposed on the waste operators.
Tuffen is of The Oaks, Billericay and Hickman from Bryn Coch, Port Talbot. Brede is from Cappel Lane, Stanstead Abbotts, Ware.
Chelmsford Crown Court heard at an earlier hearing that the company had been in financial difficulty towards the end of 2008. Waste asbestos was taken back to the Towerfields yard to bulk it up and store it there.
Tuffen and Hickman also pleaded guilty to failing to prevent the fly-tipping of waste asbestos on six occasions and asked the court to take into consideration a further seven asbestos dumping offences.
Hickman also asked for one offence of using false waste consignment notes to be taken into consideration.
Tuffen, sole active director of the company, told investigating officers he had sold a vehicle, later seen fly-tipping asbestos, to Brede, who offered to do work for A1 Bins for a good rate.
Hickman, transport manager for the company, said they employed Brede when it was busy between February and May 2009.
He said he was not aware that a permit was needed to store the waste as it was only a temporary measure. There was no evidence of waste being disposed of legally between December 2008 and July 2009.
A1 Bins advertised as a specialist asbestos waste transport and disposal company. This gave the impression of knowledge and trustworthiness.
The court heard that underpinning that trust was the supply of what appeared to be legitimate invoices and consignment notes showing that the hazardous waste had been taken to and signed for by the Oxfordshire landfill site. These were false.
Mr Sailesh Mehta, prosecuting for the Environment Agency, told the court that when officers visited the illegal site in May 2009 they found 72 skips, most of which contained waste asbestos. Some asbestos was also on the ground. Samples taken showed that it included white, blue and brown asbestos.
Waste consignment notes were found in the office covering a period when no evidence could be confirmed of legitimate disposal of waste by A1 Bins.
Asbestos had, in fact, been dumped twice in Norton Road, Stevenage; at Jodrell Way, Thurrock; Highways Depot, Stanford Le Hope, Essex; twice at Manor Way, Swanscombe, Kent Welwyn Garden City, Thurrock Lakeside, other Thurrock sites, Tilbury and Dolphin Quarry between 24 March and 26 April 2009.
In total the company cleared 361.7 tonnes of waste containing asbestos from the Towerfields site, at a cost of about £48,436.
Sentencing on 7 February, Judge Charles Gratwicke said nobody in the court could not feel angry towards the defendants.
“Each of you has not paid the slightest regard for the regulations. You all flouted the law for financial gain putting public health at risk.”
After the hearing, the Environment Agency’s environmental crime team leader Lesley Robertson said:
“We take the problems of illegal waste very seriously.
“During this investigation we worked in partnership with other agencies including Stevenage Borough Council, Thurrock Council, Essex Police and other regions within the Environment Agency to gather evidence against those believed to be committing these offences.
“This case was made worse by the hazardous nature of the waste, namely three types of asbestos, which was being illegally stored at the site in Benfleet, further aggravated by the fact that the company the defendants operated claimed to be ‘specialist contractors for the disposal of asbestos waste’, preying on others’ trustworthiness.
“This case should also be a warning to legitimate businesses, to ensure that they fulfil their duty of care when employing a business or person to dispose of their waste, including auditing any paperwork that they should receive for the disposal of the waste - don’t be afraid to ask the necessary questions.”