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'Good character' director of Notts waste firm gets community service and management disqualification

On 08 January 2009, Christopher White, a director of Eurotech Waste Management Limited (now in liquidation), was sentenced at the Nottingham Crown Court after previously pleading guilty to causing by his consent and neglect seven counts of illegal waste activity by Eurotech on a site at The Enterprise Park, Newark.

The charges were brought by the Environment Agency under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and Christopher White was ordered to undertake 240 hours of unpaid work for the community. Christopher White was also disqualified from being a Company Director or being involved in the management of a Company for a period of two years. The Court made no costs order against Mr White due to his limited financial means.

For the Environment Agency, Counsel Jonathan Salmon told the Court that between the dates of August 2003 and August 2005 the company operated a waste facility at unit A6 at the Enterprise Park under a Waste Management Licence issued by the Environment Agency.

The company was principally involved with the treatment and transfer of waste electrical equipment contaminated with Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBS). These are man made chemicals used in the manufacture of electrical equipment, most commonly transformers. Their use is now banned.

They are soluble in fats and oils and are potentially very dangerous to the environment and human health and are required to be disposed of under strict guidelines. A failure to incinerate correctly has been known to cause PCBs to be converted into highly toxic dioxins. This leads to potential problems within the food chain and scientific analysis has shown links to deformities within certain animal and fish species both nationally and internationally. The site also dealt with other waste materials.

Christopher White was the technically competent manager for this licensed site and was involved in the active day to day management decisions of the site. He had been involved in the industry for many years.

The Court was told the site was being operated in such a way that waste material (and in particular PCB contaminated oil and other waste oils) was not being logged in and out correctly, and was being transferred on inadequate documentation by third parties and to third parties who were not authorised to accept the material.

Storage containers were not properly cleaned and PCB contaminated waste oil was being stored and kept carelessly or being treated outside of the licensed site in such a manner as was likely to cause damage to the environment.

These activities formed the basis of the charges before the Court. This involved breaches of the Waste Management Licence and the duty of care under Section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act.
The site failed specifically to properly deal with special waste (now called hazardous waste) that had been brought onto the premises. They had failed to ensure that proper written descriptions were in place and even to realise what they were dealing with when waste was being transferred out again.

The Environment Agency had warned Christopher White about his inadequate management of the site. Despite this he continued to run the site in the same manner. The site had become a problem site with the Environment Agency having to monitor it closely and continually explain procedures in an attempt to ensure compliance with the Waste Management Licence and regulate the movement of the special waste.

The site in question was no longer operating due to the liquidation of the company. The cost of removing the waste material left on the site was estimated to be between £70-75,000. These costs and the costs of decontamination would now have to be dealt with by others given the Company’s insolvency.

Pollution Prevention and Control Officer, Heather Liall, says “The judge described the way he managed his site as absolutely lamentable and said his incompetence at managing the company potentially exposed the public to considerable harm.

“Directors of companies that fail to meet obligations of their Waste Management Licence (Environmental Permit) will be held responsible. The Environment Agency will pursue incompetent managers that neglect their responsibilities to meet these obligations and that put the environment and human health at risk.”

In Mitigation Defence Counsel Gary Bell told the Court that the Defendant had indicated prior to the trial that he would be accepting responsibly for these matters. Before this case he had been regarded as a model citizen, serving in the Armed Forces but it was obvious that he was out of his depth in running a site such as this. He accepted full responsibility for the state of the site and conceded he should never have been involved in running such a waste management facility.

The Judge in sentencing commented that he had to have regard to the risk that the handling of the waste, especially the PCBs on site, had exposed the general public and wider environment to.
In deciding upon the sentence to be imposed he took into account that the Prosecution were not alleging that any directly provable harm had been caused to human health by virtue of these charges. He was also satisfied that Christopher White had been incompetent, rather than deliberately seeking to make money. He also took account of his good character. However, the sentence imposed reflected the seriousness of the offences.

At the conclusion of the case he took the unusual step of issuing a commendation to the lead investigating officer Kath Williams. He paid tribute to her investigation, dedication to duty and the presentation of the case for the Court through her witness statements.



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