A TANKER driver who was filmed dumping thousands of litres of rotten smelling black water onto the public highway has been fined.

Stanley Hall, from Durham, admitted illegally dumping the contaminated water in highway drains in the village of Crawcrook, near Gateshead.

Footage recorded by a vigilant motorist played in court showed black liquid being discharged from the tanker, and subsequently flowing through gulley holes at the B6317 roadside adjacent to Bradley Burn.

Chris Bunting, representing the Environment Agency, told Gateshead Magistrates’ Court that Hall’s employer had been contracted to empty an underground tank at Ryton Academy.

It is understood that the water tank was intended to be used to fight fires.

Hall has since resigned, and the Environment Agency took no action against his former employer after a full investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing at the firm.

The court also heard that at the time of his employment, he had been given environmental and waste management training.

“The defendant was the driver of a tanker which had a central tank into which contaminated waste was extracted,” said Mr Bunting.

Records confirmed Hall, 50, drove his vehicle from Hartlepool to Ryton where approximately 8,000 litres of waste was drawn out from a storage tank and taken to a sewage treatment works.

He later made the return journey to extract a further 8,000 litres, but rather than taking it to the sewage works he emptied the contents onto the road.

Mr Bunting said: “On July 13 tachograph records showed the defendant took the vehicle from Hartlepool  and paperwork shows that 8,000 litres of waste was taken to Howden Sewerage Treatment Works.

“Extraction records show there was a further 8,000 litres due out of the storage tank.  Only one load was taken to Howdon.

“A member of the public driving past Crawcrook was concerned and took footage of the liquid being dumped.

“He said it was jet black and had a rotten smell. He spoke to the defendant who told him it was gully sweepings.”

The following day, an Environment Agency officer attended the scene and took photographs showing the pathway of the liquid along the roadside.

The officer assessed the scene and decided no obvious lasting impact was made upon the watercourse.

Mr Bunting continued: “There wasn’t any sign of any longer lasting impact on the water course.

“At a voluntary interview Hall claimed he had been discharging clean water from saddle tanks on his vehicle and had been instructed to do so because the vehicle was going in for repairs.

“The point is we still don’t really know what was in the waste, that’s the most serious fact of the matter, neither the Environment Agency or the defendant can say what it was.”

Defending himself, Hall accepted that what he’d done was wrong, although insisted he had been placed under pressure to do so by his now former Hartlepool based employers as the tanker had to be taken in for repairs that evening.

He said: “I wasn’t the supervisor here, he told me what to do, I clarified this with a manager who told me ‘it’s fine Stan, dump it in the closest drain’.

“If I had the money and the power I would take the whole company to court, there have been loads left, packed their jobs in because they have been told to do it.

“I never got any money, I never got any gain from doing it. I know I’ve done wrong, I should have had more sense .”

Magistrates fined Hall, of High Carr Road, Durham, £775 and he was ordered to pay £500 costs and a £77 victim surcharge.

Speaking after the hearing Rachael Caldwell, area environment manager for the Environment Agency, thanked the “quick-thinking” motorist who recorded the footage.

She said: “Discharging any contaminated liquid waste is a serious offence as it could cause an unlimited amount of damage to the environment and if it ends up in the local watercourse it could have an impact on residents and wildlife.

 “We applaud the vigilance, care and attention of the passing motorist, whose quick thinking to safely record footage of the offence has been a key piece of evidence in the prosecution of Mr Hall.  We would urge the public if they see any suspicious activity to report the information to our incident line.”

Waste crimes can be reported on the Environment Agency’s incident hotline on 0800-807060 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800-555111.