2:08pm Friday 24th January 2014
THE former boss of a recycling firm who allowed a Ministry of Defence site to store waste in a way that could have caused a risk to human health faces jail.
Jacqueline Powell, 58, was a director of Wormtech Ltd, a company that composted tons of food waste at an MoD site in Caerwent when it was at the centre of several environmental breaches, a court heard.
The Environment Agency found it was the poorest performing waste site in England and Wales in 2011.
Agency bosses suspended Wormtech’s licence in July 2012 after becoming aware that a run-off containing E. coli and salmonella leaked from a composting building, a jury heard.
Wormtech had already polluted the water supply in 2010, an offence that Powell had pleaded guilty to, Cardiff Crown Court heard.
Following its suspension in 2012, Wormtech was unable to take on more waste from councils in Gwent and left the site with £40,000 debts, the court was told.
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) said yesterday it had already spent £600,000 clearing the site, adding that the final bill could reach around £1.6 million.
Judge Neil Bidder, QC, applied for a confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act to try to pay for the clearing costs.
He adjourned the case for sentencing to February 13 and told the court that “all options are open”, meaning Powell could face custody.
Powell, of Manor Way, Cardiff, denied one count of consenting to or conniving as a director of a company of treating, keeping or disposing controlled waste on land in a manner likely to cause pollution to the environment or harm to human health.
She also pleaded not guilty to two counts of consenting to or conniving as a director of a company of failing to comply with a condition of an environmental permit.
A jury of nine men and three women took around four hours to reach verdicts on all the counts.
Judge Bidder granted Powell bail yesterday on condition that she co-operates with the probation service so that a pre-sentence report may be produced.
Two other former Worm-tech directors – Robert Baynton, 42, of Dan-Y-Bryn, Gilwern, Abergavenny, and Jonathan Westwood, 38, of Wordsworth Avenue, Cardiff – have already pleaded guilty to three counts of failing to comply with an environmental permit and a further charge each under the Employment Protection Act.
The Proceeds of Crime Act hearing is to take place to May 30.
The Argus previously reported how Wormtech was fined more than £40,000 in 2011 after polluting the Nedern Brook, which forced an MoD training base into quarantine for three months.
Speaking after yesterday’s hearing, a spokesman for NRW said: “In 2011 Wormtech was the poorest performing waste site in England and Wales.
“Wormtech was placed F-rated banding of non-compliance.
“The banding is based on a points system – a score of 150 would be sufficient to secure a band F rating. Wormtech scored 700 points.
“The actions taken by the company in this case could have caused serious pollution to the nearby environment, as well as placing the health of local people at risk.
“In addition to this, the poor condition in which the site was left meant that that the taxpayer had to pick up the bill to remove waste from the site.”
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