Toxic fumes land firm with £100K fine

A major waste firm has been fined more than £100,000 after workers were poisoned by toxic fumes at a hazardous waste treatment site.

Veolia Environmental Services UK pleaded guilty to a total of eight charges of breaching health and safety and environmental protection laws.

It admitted accepting waste it was not permitted to hold at its site in Bootle, on Merseyside, in April 2006, and storing it with another chemical substance, which caused the release of toxic fumes.

The fumes left four employees needing medical treatment and caused side effects among people living nearby.

South Sefton Magistrates Court ordered the company to pay a £101,000 fine, as well as £65,000 costs.

The court heard that the situation had been made worse because the company’s emergency plans were inadequate, were not followed and hindered the emergency services.

The conviction was the result of a joint prosecution by the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Mark Easedale from the Environment Agency said: “This incident highlights the importance of ensuring correct procedures are followed to ensure there is no harm to the environment when hazardous waste is being handled.”

HSE inspector Daniel Longdon said: “This was a totally avoidable incident had the proper procedures been in place and it was only through good fortune that the consequences were not more serious.”

A Veolia Environmental Services spokesperson told edie the company regretted the incident and took its environmental responsibilities and health and safety duties very seriously.

She added: “Our aim is to meet, and where feasible, to exceed the requirements set by regulators. We consider any infringements to be wholly unacceptable and we recognise that in order to maintain these standards we must never be complacent.

“We have put in place new procedures to help prevent this type of incident being repeated in the future.”

Kate Martin

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