A formerly registered waste carrier failed to reveal where 25,000 tonnes of soil and rubble had been dumped, a court heard.

Robert Surtees’ County Durham company was paid to collect and transport the waste to unknown locations and became the subject of an Environment Agency investigation.

Durham Crown Court was told waste carriers must hold correct registration and abide by duty of care regulations.

The court heard that Surtees previously held the correct certification, but it expired in July 2020.

The Northern Echo: Environment Agency prosecutes haulier for failing to inform  them where he dumped 25 tonnes of

Holly Clegg, prosecuting, said, acting on information received, in September 2022, an Environment Agency officer attended a site in County Durham owned by B&S Recycling Ltd, of which Surtees was a director.

It was suspected waste may have been illegally deposited, but there was no evidence of it at the site, so further inquiries were made.

During the investigation another company confirmed that B&S Recycling Ltd had removed waste from two North East sites where they had been working.

Waste transfer notes confirmed that between September 2020 and September 2022 B&S Recycling collected 170 loads of waste, totalling about 25,000 tonnes, from the sites, in Stockton and Birtley.

B&S Recycling was paid £157,963.71 to remove this waste.

None of the 170 waste transfer notes had information as to where it was taken.

Miss Clegg said in October 2022 the agency officer spoke with the defendant who denied that any waste had been deposited at his own County Durham site, claiming it had been mixed with mag-lime and spread on farmers’ fields in Cumbria.

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He was served a notice requiring him to provide information on where each of the 170 loads had been deposited, by October 31.

No response was received from the defendant when the deadline was reached.

Miss Clegg said throughout the investigation there was, “significant interference with lawful inquiries”.

Facing two charges brought by the agency, 67-year-old Surtees, of Eskdale Gardens, Shildon, entered a guilty plea to one of the alleged offences, of failing to provide information as to where the waste had been dumped.

Once a previous basis of plea was abandoned, the single guilty plea was accepted by agency prosecutors.

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Eleanor Fry, for Surtees, said the waste concerned was not considered a hazardous risk to the environment.

She said her client described it as “muck”, soil which was spread on farmers’ fields.

Miss Fry said the defendant did not consider it to be waste and did not think he needed a waste licence to transport it, but he sought clarification which confirmed he did require registration.

“I would submit it was something of a negligent culpability.”

Judge Nathan Adams intervened, telling Miss Fry: “He failed to provide the information required.”

In response, Miss Fry said: “Asked if he knew where the waste was deposited he said he didn’t have the records as he didn’t consider it to be waste at the time.”

She said it was, “more negligent than deliberate.”

The court heard that Surtees previously served a two-year prison sentence for tax evasion in a red diesel scam, in 2003.

Judge Adams told Surtees that having run a successful business in waste management he would have been “fully aware” of the regulations.

“You failed to explain where 25 tonnes of waste had gone and failed to comply with that notice.

“I find it difficult to accept the company did not keep records of where it got rid of this waste and, so, it’s concerning.

“The information should have been provided.”

Describing it as, “a deliberate breach”, Judge Adams imposed a fine of £6,000, which was subsequently amended to £4,250, and ordered Surtees to pay £3,950 prosecution costs of the agency, plus a £1,700 statutory surcharge.

Giving the defendant six months to pay the near £10,000 court bill, Judge Adams added that he hoped it was the last time he appears before the court.

Speaking after the hearing, Gary Wallace, Area Environment Manager for the Environment Agency in the North East, said: “The waste industry is strictly regulated to prevent pollution.

“Duty of care legislation ensures we know what waste is being transported, who is transporting it and where to, ensuring the community and environment is protected.

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“Surtees totally disregarded these regulations, profiting from transporting a large amount waste without any evidence of where it’s been deposited, potentially causing harm to the environment as well as undermining legitimate waste carriers who operate within the law.”

Checks can be made to ensure if a business is a registered waste carrier via: Waste Carriers, Brokers and Dealers (data.gov.uk).

Reports of illegal waste activity can be made to the Environment Agency on (0800) 807060 or via Crimestoppers, anonymously, on (0800) 555111.