Activecraft Thomspons Board Mills was fined £10,000 last month for consistently polluting Briggle Beck in Penrith over the period of a year. The company was also ordered to pay £2,500 costs to the Environment Agency. On six occasions between February 1998 and February 1999, the company caused trade effluent to be discharged into the Briggle Beck. Despite a Notice being issued in April 1998 requiring works to be carried out to prevent breaches of the discharge consent for the site, none of the requirements were met.

Contract Chemicals (Leeds) Ltd was fined £4,000 and ordered to pay costs of £5,000 for an incident which occurred in October 1998 when a quantity of hydrogen bromide was released to the air. Modifications to the plant and a review of procedures have now been completed which should ensure that such an incident does not happen again.

Fines of £8,000 were imposed on Waste Limited, part of the Waste Recycling Group Plc, following contravention of its waste management licence. The company was found to be landfilling clinical waste improperly.

A Lancashire greenhouse grower was fined £5,000 for polluting a tributary of Pool Brook in Freckleton, Lancashire with gas fuel oil. The oil had been discharging through a faulty below ground coupling in one of the pipes beneath a greenhouse run by Wiltcrest Ltd.

The Environment Agency has taken enforcement action against British Steel plc following repeated breaches of emission limits and notification requirements in the operation of the Grange coke oven battery at its Port Talbot Works. In both the final quarter of 1998 and the first quarter of 1999, the emission of smoke from Grange battery chimney exceeded the authorised limit and complaints were made.

Chemical company Nipa Laboratories, a subsidiary of British Tar Products plc, was fined £12,500 after pleading guilty to polluting the River Calder with half a tonne parachlorophenol from its Nook Lane premises in Oswaldtwistle. Previous convictions with fines totalling £11,000 include two offences relating to a breach of an authorisation and causing polluting matters to enter controlled waters.

The Environment Agency was investigating a major pollution incident at Drefelin, near Drefach Felindre, Carmarthenshire at the time of going to press. Some 900 fish, mostly brown trout and salmon, were found in a 2km stretch of the Nant Bargod. Investigation so far suggests that the pollution may have been caused by silage effluent that can be up to 100 times more polluting than raw sewage.

A scheme set up to ensure quality and environmental awareness among companies called upon to respond to oil spill incidents has been extended and revised. The accreditation scheme for spill response contractors, run in England and Wales by the EA and the British Oil Spill Control Association, has now become UK-wide, with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the Environment and Heritage Service for Northern Ireland joining the partnership.

Draft legislation for a new tax on aggregates was published at the end of April by Customs and Excise for consultation, covering the commercial exploitation of crushed rock, sand and gravel. The new tax will be introduced if the aggregates industry cannot commit to, or fails to implement, an enhanced package of measures to reduce the environmental damage from the extraction of aggregates.

Clare Short, the UK’s secretary for international development, has asked fellow members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris to relax the rules on tied aid, giving developing countries more freedom to choose technology used in environmental projects. If the rules are changed, UK export companies may lose business. Around 14 per cent of aid from the UK is currently conditional upon the use of UK products. France, with a tied aid figure of 25 per cent is allied with the US, Japan and Denmark in opposing such a change, while the UK government leads a group of 10 European countries arguing for untied aid as a more effective means of economic assistance.

Wessex Water is offering to pay farmers in key supply areas to convert to organic farming, in order to stop further contamination of groundwater with fertilisers and pesticides. Andrea Husband, compliance scientist at Wessex Water, said: “We will be targeting farmers in eight key areas in Salisbury and Dorset, following assessment under a nutrient management plan carried out by the Soil Association. They will be offered up to £40/ha/yr to begin conversion to organic farming. The system will be banded, so farmers on the edge of the catchment area will be offered slightly less.”

Seven local authorities, private waste management businesses and British Waterways have proved a new public private partnership initiative to carry waste by water as commercial feasible and environmentally sustainable. The Waste by Water partnership could ultimately remove over 45,000 lorry journeys from North London’s roads transporting it instead by river to the LondonWaste CHP plant at Edmonton.

The Environment Agency is stepping up its approach to law breakers by appointing its first full-time chief prosecutor. David Stott has extensive prosecution experience including the Crown Prosecution Service where he was a Chief Crown Prosecutor. “The Environment Agency does not bring cases to court lightly or without good reason,” said Stott. “When it does, it naturally wants to succeed and not waste public money. Our success rate is high and it is my task to ensure that all court cases are presented in the most effective fashion so as to maintain and improve that standard.”

The UK has taken a strong lead in a European Space Agency programme called the ‘Living Planet’ to help scientists to understand and predict the Earth’s environment and humankind’s effects upon it. The British National Space Centre has invested £67 million in the £400 million programme.

Shotton Paper on Deeside, Clwyd, has switched water suppliers in a new ‘inset’ agreement with Albion Water, a joint venture between SW Water and Enviro-Logic. The paper mill changed suppliers in May to take advantage of “improvements in price and quality of service”. Dr Jeremy Bryan, managing director of Enviro-Logic, said: “Although Shotton is already an extremely efficient water user, our challenge is now to find ways of taking the efficiency further. Possibilities include treating and reusing the mill’s effluent, or developing new resources.”

BSI has reported a three-fold increase in the number of UK organisations successfully achieving the environmental management systems certification ISO 14001. More than 1,000 UK organisations have achieved ISO 14001 certification, ranking the UK third place worldwide behind Japan and Germany.

A flood warnings system based on designs already proven in China, Bangladesh and Venice is to be developed for the Environment Agency’s Anglian Region. The £1.33 million, three-year project is aimed at improving accuracy, reliability and timing of flood forecasts and will initially be tested on the Welland-Glen and Witham rivers.

The so-called ‘Dutch Test Method’ used to measure the migration of phthalate plasticizers from toys and childcare items into saliva has been validated. Six labs in Germany, the Netherlands and the UK took part in the trials organised by the Dutch Nutrition and Food Research Institute. They found that the test method is suitable for routine enforcement of legislation regarding the allowed migration level of Di-isononyl phthalate and that it is likely that the method could be extended to measure the release of other phthalates.

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