Firm fined £180,000 for Cyanide dumping

Posted on 9th January, 2018

A Wolverhampton based electroplating firm have been fined £180,000 despite numerous warning to clean up it’s act a court heard.

When the cyanide levels were uncovered, company challenged the results suggesting Severn Trent Water introduced it in their sampling equipment.  Waste from the firm goes to Barnhurst Sewage Treatment Works in Oxley which discharges into both the Shropshire Union and Staffordshire and Worcestershire canals.

Mr Oliver Willmott, prosecuting on behalf of Severn Trent Water, said that in a sample taken on February 7, 2015, cyanide was found at more than two-and-a-half times the agreed limit for the firm.

Further samples taken on November 11 the same year recorded zinc at more than two times the limit and chemical oxygen demand (COD) at two-and-a-half times the legal measure. The Barnhurst works, which treats waste from across Wolverhampton and Perton, has a high zinc load given it takes waste from nine electroplaters, said Mr Willmott.

He added: “Because of the high concentration of these firms in the area, it is critical each one sticks to their limits. There is a risk that rather than being put to good use, sludge has to be sent to landfill.”

The company, which stopped using cyanide in 2009, also suggested that the cyanide finding was an error, a rogue result or a one-off event, with an old bottle of cyanide being found and emptied into the treatment pit, a practice it called ‘standard’. But Judge Barry Berlin said even if that was the case, it showed ‘a patent cavalier behaviour symbolic of a company not living up to its responsibilities’.

He ‘wholly rejected’ the notion that Severn Trent Water used contaminated bottles when collecting samples, describing their actions in the context of their past offending as ‘deliberate’.  This was not a minor problem, as claimed by the company, but ‘an ongoing and significant one’, said the judge.

The firm pleaded guilty to three counts of breaching agreed limits on the contents of its liquid waste relating to zinc, COD and cyanide. The court heard the Company had failed to supply the court with a reliable set of accounts as requested. Those provided contained omissions and an unexplained swing in figures. Parts were ‘incredible,’ said the judge.

He fined the firm £120,000 and ordered them to pay £60,000 costs.