Bristol

Churngold Recycling firm fined for dumping toxic waste

Lee Phelan (l) and John Barcham
Image caption Lee Phelan (l) and John Barcham were convicted of illegally storing more than 6,000 tonnes of hazardous waste

A recycling firm near Bristol has been found guilty of dumping 61,000 tonnes of hazardous waste into the foundations of a supermarket distribution centre.

Churngold Recycling Ltd was paid to remove and safely treat 31,000 tonnes of waste from a BMW plant in Oxford.

Instead the firm mixed it with more waste so it weighed 61,000 tonnes and then sold on as groundworks material.

Both directors were cleared for perverting the course of justice and for knowingly breaching permits.

'Dizzy and sick'

Some of the charges related to the firm only, or the firm and both directors.

During the trial, the jury heard 31,000 tonnes of soil containing asbestos, lead and other heavy metals, was taken from a BMW factory in 2011 to Churngold's site in Hallen.

At the time, the firm had a licence to hold 6,000 tonnes.

The waste material was mixed with other waste and concrete then sold to developers who were building a Co-op distribution centre in Avonmouth.

Image caption A Churngold Recycling employee alerted the Environment Agency which triggered the five-year investigation

The firm was found guilty of dumping the waste onto the Co-op site.

Ground worker Edward Mayne said: "The smell was so bad at stages, sometimes I had to leave the site, it made me feel dizzy and sick.

"We had it all over our bodies, it was raining, it was mud - we were in it all the time."

When workers complained they were told to get the waste in the ground as quickly as possible.

A Churngold Recycling employee alerted the Environment Agency which triggered the five-year investigation.

The court heard the waste had to be removed and disposed of properly at a cost of £9m.

Churngold Ltd was found guilty of four charges.

The firm, together with both directors, was found guilty of illegally storing more than 6,000 tonnes hazardous waste safely and for knowingly doing so.

Image copyright Environment Agency
Image caption At the time, the firm had a licence to hold 6,000 tonnes

Barcham was cleared of a single count of falsifying documents. The firm and both directors were cleared of knowingly dumping waste without the necessary permits.

Both directors were cleared of one count of perverting the course of justice.

The jury failed to reach a verdict on two counts. They related to the firm and directors knowingly consenting to illegally dumping controlled waste without a permit and treating, keeping and dumping controlled waste which could be harmful to the environment.

Bristol Crown Court's jury returned five guilty verdicts, three not guilty and failed to reach a verdict on two counts.

The Environment Agency has until 10 July to seek a retrial over the two charges where the jury failed to reach a verdict.

Churngold Recycling Limited has since changed its name to South West Recycling Ltd.

A sentencing date has not yet been set.

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