The owner of a Wiltshire scrapyard and recycling company has received an 18 month prison sentence suspended for 2 years for running an illegal waste operation from a site in Melksham. The case was brought by the Environment Agency.
Lee Hazel, owner and director of Melksham Metals Recycling Ltd, was sentenced yesterday at Swindon Crown Court following 2 earlier court hearings in June 2014 and November 2015.
On 23 August 2011 an enforcement officer from Wiltshire Council visited the Lowbourne area of Melksham to investigate a report of illegal waste tipping. He found piles of chalky stone, tarmac road planings and concrete pipes on land at Queenfield Farm beside the old Wiltshire to Berkshire Canal.
The officer reported the incident to the Environment Agency. At the entrance to Queenfield Farm he noticed a trail of ‘chalky liquid’ in the road similar in colour to the waste stone he had seen tipped at the farm. He followed the trail back into Melksham to a road leading to Melksham Metal Recycling.
On 6 September 2011 Environment Agency officers visited Queenfield Farm where they saw a Melksham Metals lorry loaded with stone waste drive onto the site.
In addition to stone waste tipped at the site, waste transfer ‘fines’ were also seen. These fines are small particles of waste resulting from a screening process.
Following the visit, the Environment Agency wrote to Lee Hazel at Melksham Metals asking him to provide copies of waste transfer notes for the previous 2 years.
Lee Hazel claimed the lorry seen at Queenfield Farm on 6 September was taking stone waste to a permitted site near Chippenham. This contradicted what his driver had told Environment Agency officers. Mr Hazel claimed he had never tipped waste at the farm.
Further inquiries revealed that Melksham Metals had a contract to remove waste stone from a local stone masons yard for disposal at a licensed site. When an Environment Agency officer visited the yard he saw cut pieces of stone identical to the stone waste he’d seen at Queenfield Farm.
A court heard Melksham Metals was paid nearly £178,000 to remove waste from the stone masons yard between November 2004 and May 2012.
The Environment Agency had warned Lee Hazel on several occasions about unlawful waste activities including the illegal disposal of waste at Queenfield Farm and depositing waste on land without an environmental permit and the requirements of duty of care.
Lee Hazel had been involved in the waste industry for 20 years and held a Certificate of Technical Competence (CoTC) by the Waste Management Industry Training and Advisory Board (WAMITAB).
An Environment Agency spokesperson said:
It is important waste materials are stored, handled and disposed of correctly to protect the environment and safeguard human health. The defendant in this case continued to operate outside the law despite being put on notice that what he was doing was illegal and ran the risk of prosecution.
In June 2014 Lee Hazel was found guilty of 4 charges in relation to the dumping of waste on land at Queenfield Farm, Melksham. In November 2015 Lee Hazel pleaded guilty to a further 5 charges in relation to unauthorised waste activities at his Station Yard premises.
Melksham Metals Recycling Ltd was also convicted of similar offences, but will not be sentenced until after a confiscation hearing in June 2016. This hearing will decide the financial benefit obtained by Lee Hazel and make a confiscation order in relation to that benefit.
Fines and costs against both Lee Hazel and his company will also be decided at that hearing.