A company and its managing director have been found guilty at one of Scotland’s biggest environmental crime trials.
Gary Doonin, along with his company, Doonin Plant Ltd, was found guilty by a jury at Livingston Sheriff Court of keeping hundreds of tonnes of controlled waste at a site in a manner likely to cause pollution of the environment. Doonin and his company were also found guilty of keeping controlled waste without the authority of a Waste Management Licence.
In 2004, the company was granted planning permission by West Lothian Council to restore the site but following a complaint to the council in January 2010 regarding alleged unauthorised waste deposits, SEPA investigated.
Following initial visits, it was suspected that illegally deposited waste had been covered by tonnes of soil and SEPA used its powers to enter the site and carry out excavation work. Several trenches, up to two metres deep, were excavated and in each, under a layer of soil, was found a mix of controlled wastes including a car tyre, carpet, clothing, electrical components, food packaging, insulation material, metal wire, plasterboard, postal mail, sofa cushions and wooden planks, among many other controlled waste items.
SEPA’s scientific experts analysed samples from the site and identified elevated levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), characteristic of landfill gas. It was also concluded that groundwater below the site was likely to be affected by leachate generated by waste deposits. This raised concerns that polluted groundwater could impact on localised surface water.
Because of the disregard for waste management regulations and the potential environmental impact, SEPA reported Doonin and his company to the Procurator Fiscal.
Ian Buchanan, SEPA’s operations area manager, said: “This crime involved hundreds of tonnes of illegal waste which had the potential to cause serious environmental harm. Doonin Plant Ltd is well known to us and avoided its responsibilities to the environment which had a negative impact, both on the local community and the wider waste industry.
“By carrying out such activities, Doonin Plant Ltd and Mr Doonin demonstrated a lack of consideration for the environment. The company’s, and his, actions have undermined the operations of legitimate businesses and we hope the conviction acts as a deterrent to any operators considering breaking the law. The fact this case was heard before a jury demonstrates the serious nature of the charges brought.
“SEPA has worked closely with our colleagues at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) to present this complex case and will continue to do so to bring those who commit environmental crimes to justice.
“This verdict against Mr Doonin should also act as a warning to company directors that SEPA will consider offences committed by individuals when investigating environmental crimes.”