South-west superstore retailer Trago Mills has been fined almost £200,000 for illegally dumping and burning waste at two of its out-of-town stores in 2009.
Appearing before Torquay magistrates last week, the company pleaded guilty to depositing and disposing of several thousands tonnes of waste, including asbestos, at sites near the retailer's stores at Newton Abbot and Liskeard.
On September 14, 2009, officers from the Environment Agency visited the Newton Abbot store and discovered waste materials including plastic, electrical goods, concrete, packaging, pots of paint and chemicals had been illegally landfilled.
Also dumped were unsold stock, former shop displays and discarded office equipment. A larger area of landfill, containing an estimated 6,000 tonnes of waste, including 200 sheets of asbestos, was found on an adjoining part of the site.
According to a report from the Agency, in June 2009, video footage taken from a helicopter showed a large stockpile of waste on land belonging to Trago Mills - 1km from the main store at Liskeard. The pile contained substantial amounts of wood including pallets and furniture, timber, tree cuttings, rubble and cardboard packaging.
During a visit later in the year, Agency officers found the remains of a huge fire, where the illegal burning of materials including plastic, tyres and treated wood had taken place, producing polluting and toxic smoke.
The court heard Trago Mills had since worked with the Environment Agency to remove the illegally dumped waste. It employed extra staff to help recover and sort the waste and claims the clean-up operation has cost the business almost £500,000.
At the Newton Abbot site, the mixed wastes had to be segregated, and any contaminated material disposed of separately, with the clean-up taking several months.
The Environment Agency's Dave Brogden said: "Trago Mills uses its location in the unspoilt Devon countryside to market its out-of-town stores and leisure parks. You would think such a company would do all it could to protect these locations. Instead, it dumped thousands of tonnes of waste and showed an unacceptable disregard for the environment.
"From our investigations it was clear these illegal operations had taken place over a lengthy period of time and involved thousands of tonnes of waste. The company had recycling schemes in place, but avoided costs by illegal dumping."
Watch video footage of the dump site, filmed by the Environment Agency, here