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Concrete firm handed hefty fine for Ealing dust emissions

Hanson Concrete to pay more than £120,000 for environmental offences on air pollution hotspot Horn Lane

A concrete supplier in Ealing faces fines and costs totalling more than £120,000 after pleading guilty to environmental offences involving air pollution emissions and spillages at its Horn Lane site.

Dust blown up by lorry manoeuvring at western entrance/exit of Horn Lane site (photo: Ealing council)

Dust blown up by lorry manoeuvring at western entrance/exit of Horn Lane site (photo: Ealing council – click to enlarge)

Hanson Quarry Products Europe Ltd, trading as Hanson Concrete, was sentenced at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday (February 2) having previously pleaded guilty to five offences carried out between May 2014 and April 2015 in the West London borough.

Ealing council said the action brought by its officers sent a “clear message” that the authority would “pursue companies that fail to operate responsibly”.

Described as the UK’s largest manufacturer and supplier of ready-mixed concrete, the firm has run operations at its Horn Lane site in Acton for 50 years, but in 2010 demolished its old site which included a wheel-washing facility for lorries and trucks.

Permission was granted in 2011 to reopen the site and Hanson Concrete was issued with an environmental permit with strict controls in place to cut dust pollution and limit the impact on Acton residents.

These conditions include a requirement that no visible dust is emitted from the site, that spillages are cleaned immediately and that lorry wheels are cleaned before they leave the site to make sure that dust and pollutants aren’t carried into the local area.

However, council officers visited the site in 2013 after measuring increases in particulate matter air pollution close to the site, which had prompted complaints from residents.

Pooling water and slurry near entrance (photo: Ealing council - click to enlarge)

Pooling water and slurry near entrance (photo: Ealing council – click to enlarge)

According to the council, the officers found on a number of occasions that Hanson Concrete was breaking the conditions of its environmental permit relating to dust emissions, spillages, storage of waste and inadequate maintenance of the Horn Lane site.

In addition, the firm breached an April 2015 enforcement notice requiring it to clean lorry wheels.

As a result, the firm was prosecuted by the council and handed fines totalling £110,600 after pleading guilty to five environmental offences. It was also told to pay the council’s costs of £9,286 plus a victim surcharge of £120.

Site improvements

Since the offences took place, Hanson Concrete – which is part of the German multinational HeidelbergCement Group – has according to Ealing council made a number of changes to better manage the site, including new wheel washing equipment and an additional pollution monitor.

The council also said its officers had also now established a “stronger working relationship” with the firm and would continue to carry out further monitoring of the site.

A spokesman for Hanson Concrete said it was “an unfortunate incident from which lessons have been learned,” adding that the firm “submitted an early guilty plea and the judge gave us credit for our full cooperation during the investigation and the significant and ongoing remedial work we have carried out at the site”.

However, the spokesman added that the judge “also agreed there was a risk of harm to local air quality, as opposed to any actual harm (as alleged by Ealing council). And she said Hanson could not properly be categorized as a ‘repeat offender’ as alleged by Ealing council.”

Pollution hotspot

Ealing council said that Horn Lane “has until recently been a nationally-significant air pollution hotspot for particulate pollution”.

Commenting on the prosecution, Ealing council leader Julian Bell said: “This judgement is a great result for local people and for our officers. It sends out a clear message that Ealing council takes any environmental breaches very seriously and we will pursue companies that fail to operate responsibly.

“Horn Lane is a residential area and all of the companies around there, including Hanson Concrete, have a duty towards the families that live nearby. Hanson Concrete pleaded guilty to these charges, but if they had taken appropriate measures in the first instance they would have avoided this action and improved air quality for local people sooner.”

Charges

Hanson Concrete pleaded guilty to five charges:

  • Contravention of permit condition 6 (immediate cleaning up of spillages) – £16,000 fine
  • Two contraventions of permit condition 8 (no spillage into areas surrounding designated waste areas) – £32,000 (fines of £16,000 for each contravention)
  • Dust emitted from the yard surface by a moving vehicle, in contravention of permit condition 3 – £16,000 fine
  • Contravention of an enforcement notice on wheel cleaning – £46,600 fine.
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