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You want me to do what?

Over the last month or so, I’ve been involved with a number of appeals and one common thread reappears, namely the age of the permits and the conditions contained within them. The schedules of conditions that are attached to the most recent environmental permits for waste operations are relatively easy to understand, whether we like the conditions or not. In the days when every Waste Regulation Authority (WRA) did their own thing (well or not so well), some absolute howlers and pointless conditions arose. So in the interests of compiling a top 10 (we’ll do the same for planning conditions soon), let’s kick off with a few of my favourites, in no particular order.

1993 Notice Board and other howlers in the same permit

“A site identification board…and shall include the words ‘Private Facility.’’’ Was no-one supposed to go there?

“A gate or similar device to the same standard as the fence shall be erected at the site entrance.”  What sort of device is used instead of a gate?

The same permit had a reference in a condition to The Deposit of Poisonous Wastes Act 1972 which was not in force as the provisions of the Control of Pollution (Special Waste) Regulations 1980 came into effect more than 10 years before the permit was written. Does anyone disagree that this one should be shorter?

“The holder shall not store or keep or cause or permit to be stored or kept for any period on the site any waste material other than any of the waste materials specified in Condition D.1 of this licence which have been deposited in accordance with conditions specified herein.”

1998 Permit – Storage heights in a building

“The maximum storage height shall be demarcated by high visibility paint marked on the walls of the storage area at a height of 2.5 metres measured from the base….Wastes stored shall not be permitted to exceed a maximum height of 2.5 metres.”

What were they thinking? If you put a full 40 yard bin in the building it would be a breach! To restrict storage heights to 2.5 metres in a building sort of misses the point of having a building and the officers were still marking it as a breach until fairly recently. Another permit had a storage height limit of 2 metres in external bays but no reference to the height of the bays.

1999 Waste Returns

“A summary return of the types and total quantities of wastes deposited at the site shall be made to the Environment Agency on a calendar month basis to arrive not later than the 15th day of the following month.”

This one still exists even though the EA modified some permits to bring them in line with quarterly returns.

On a more serious note, if the regulator cannot update or remove poor conditions, how can they expect operators to take the remaining conditions seriously? Either the permit is enforceable or it is not and the excuse that the regulators do not have the resources to vary these old permits is ludicrous. What we need is a no fee variation to get rid of these old and useless conditions so that sites can be operated with a set of conditions that everyone can work to.

Before the Agency was formed in 1996, some councils issued permits that would give War and Peace a run for its money, some of which are still valid with multiple cross referencing of conditions and tables to add to the confusion.  Thankfully some have been surrendered or disclaimed by liquidators some years ago. One of which included a requirement to install groundwater monitoring boreholes for a transfer station and including a condition that prohibited landfill operations when there was no obvious place for a landfill as the site was a yard on an industrial estate.

I still work with permits that don’t list waste types, which means they are all listed in the management system for those few lucky sites, so no variation is needed to accept new wastes, other than agree the updates to the management system. Other permits have less than half a page of waste types by EWC code, missing codes which should obviously be included.

At the time these licences or permits were issued, no-one knew any better and the current holders are stuck with documents that could cost £8,000 or more to vary under EP OPRA. This is clearly not an acceptable state of affairs. So send us your daft conditions to include in the top 10, as I intend to send them to the top man/woman in the relevant organisation and ask why they haven’t changed.

Marco Muia BSc (Hons) MSc MCIWM is the Managing Director of Oaktree Environmental Limited. He specialises in all aspects of waste planning and regulation consultancy. He also holds the level 4 COTCs for Hazardous Waste Treatment and Transfer. You can contact Marco on 01606 558833 if you have any questions about this article or e-mail him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @wastechat

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