Contractor jailed for illegally filling quarry with waste

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A contractor has been found guilty of illegally dumping hazardous waste at a former limestone quarry in Somerset over a year period.

The defendant Mark Foley, of Cardiff was prosecuted for illegally disposing of 100,000 tonnes of waste at Stowey Quarry, near Chew Valley reservoir, was jailed for two years and three months.

The offence happened during 2016/2017 which saw an intensive investigation by the Environment Agency into the management of the site which was found to be dumping hazardous waste.

The operation, which accepted all types of waste from around England, was described at Bristol Crown Court as one of the most serious risks of harm in the country during the past 30 years due to the scale and severity of the waste.

The defendant Foley was also jailed for a further 18 weeks, to be served concurrently, for a further charge of supplying false information to the Environment Agency.

The company, M E Foley (Contractors) Ltd, which ran the site and also had an environmental permit, failed to provide the court with any company accounts and was fined £72,000.

The Environment Agency representative, Rebecca Kirk commented saying that: “It has taken three years of meticulous work for our investigation into Stowey Quarry to reach this stage. This was environmental offending of the highest order.”

Stowey Quarry was only permitted to accept ‘clean’ and ‘non-hazardous’ material including soil and construction waste for recovery purposes – to build bunds and embankments in the quarry.

The site operator, was wholly responsible for checking waste and recoding the amount of waste arriving at the site to ensure it was suitable the subsequent investigation showed the rules were routinely flouted.

Despite repeated warnings, the illegal tipping and waste disposal continued and in October 2016 the Environment Agency served M E Foley (Contractors) with a suspension notice that cancelled its permit with immediate effect and stopped the site from operating.

Leachate seeping through the contaminated land
Leachate seeping through the contaminated land

Investigators took many samples from trial pits and bore holes revealed a high percentage of chopped/shredded plastics, metals, foam and other man-made materials.

Further analysis showed that about half the samples were hazardous and either carcinogenic or ecotoxic.

The investigation included the monitoring of landfill gases and sampling of nearby streams that showed an elevated concentration of gases together with leachate on the surface of surrounding fields.

Much of the waste arriving at Stowey Quarry was misleadingly described as a ‘soil substitute’ in a deliberate attempt to circumvent the rules.

The storage and disposal of hazardous material contravened the site’s permit that only allowed clean/inert waste.

The operator also lied about the amount of waste being received.

After checking waste transfer notes provided by the waste producers and hauliers, it was estimated that in 2016 alone, almost 95,000 tonnes of waste was deposited at Stowey Quarry – double the 44,950 tonnes declared by M E Foley (Contractors).

The investigation also questioned the true amount of waste received by the site since its operation began in 2012.

The amount deposited at the site by 2016 was closer to 200,000 tonnes – well above the 65,000 tonnes Foley was permitted to store for the purpose of restoring perimeter bunds and embankments using clear, inert waste.

Further defendants in the case will be sentenced in July at Bristol Crown Court and hearing dates for proceeds of crime proceedings have been set.