The Environment Agency secured a restriction order against a recycling firm after it failed to comply with fire regulations despite numerous warnings about storing hazardous waste at a site near local homes.

Shee Recycling in the North East town of Birtley stored large oil drums containing hazardous waste, cutting equipment, batteries, and fuel canisters, all of which were major fire hazards.

Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court heard that the Environment Agency and Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service officers had visited the site numerous times during 2021 to encourage the operators to bring the site into compliance with fire regulations, including reducing waste volumes and introducing fire breaks between piles of waste.

The site is close to other commercial properties, the east coast mainline, and Rowletch Burn bridge, and posed a significant environmental risk. 

After visiting the site, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service issued a Notification of Deficiencies which included:

  • no Fire Risk Assessment
  • the lack of adequate firefighting equipment and emergency lighting maintenance
  • the lack of general fire safety arrangements
  • the lack of fire drills
  • no staff fire training

A Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson said:

“We passed on our findings to the Environment Agency who implemented the overarching action to gain a court order to close down the business in question. It shows how organisations can work closely together to help protect employees and the general public when it comes down to serious breaches of fire safety.”    

The Environment Agency has now locked the site’s access gate, placing a warning notice at the entrance. Anyone entering the land without reasonable excuse or written permission from the Environment Agency will be committing a criminal offence, as will anyone who tampers with the lock or notice.

John Crowl, Environment Agency Enforcement Team Leader in the North East, said:

“This is the second time these powers have been used in the North East and it demonstrates the robust steps we will take to put a stop to illegal waste activity and to protect the environment and communities.”     

Photo credit: Environment Agency