One of the bosses at a Saltney waste company involved in a huge warehouse blaze has been banned from being a company director for seven years.
Paul Baison, 64, who was a commercial director at Lancashire Fuels 4 U, was also given a suspended prison sentence after he admitted operating a waste facility without a permit and storing waste in a manner likely to cause harm to human health and pollution to the environment.
On May 20, 2014, a fire broke out at the company’s premises on the River Lane Industrial Estate in Saltney which took a week to extinguish.
Environmental and fire officials had previously seen mixed waste “steaming” inside the buildings and were already worried that the site posed a fire risk.
At Mold Crown Court, prosecuting barrister Christopher Stables said their fears were realised when the fire started in 2014.
“The whole pile of waste went up,” he said.
Judge Rhys Rowlands said: “Where individuals choose to ignore the law with a view to making money, creating real risks to the environment and to the wider community, then custody is likely to follow.”
But Baison was handed an 11-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months.
The court heard he had pleaded guilty and suffered ill health, and that his co-director had previously received a suspended sentence.
Baison, of Rawtenstall, Lancashire, previously denied the offences but fell ill during an earlier trial at Caernarfon Crown Court.
Mr Stables said that Baison then changed his plea to guilty.
He said that Lancashire Fuels 4 U had a plan to produce biofuel in the form of pellets and briquettes made from wood and other waste products – an activity that required an environmental permit.
They were told they could operate on a limited scale as long as they adhered to strict exemption conditions, including the use of a single waste as opposed to mixed waste.
But they brought in mixed waste illegally, which was then was put through a shredding, drying and blending process to turn it into fuel.
The court heard there was no environmental permit but they registered a series of exemptions to allow them to receive “single stream waste”.
A little over 4,000 tonnes of waste was received at the site, of which some four fifths was mixed waste, which the court heard was “entirely illegal”.
During visits in the summer of 2013, officials from Natural Resources Wales became “extremely concerned” by the three huge warehouses full of mixed shredded waste which they found at the site.
In December 2013, the premises were searched and documents and computer equipment were seized.
They revealed that, despite knowing they needed a permit, the company “had just gone ahead with the manufacturing operation”.
After the fire broke out in 2014, firefighters had to draw thousands of litres of water from the River Dee to tackle the blaze, which then entered the drainage system and got back into the river.
Contaminated water entered the Dee, and officers struggled for days to try and re-route the water and block the drainage system, managing to prevent much pollution of the river.
Defending barrister David Ackerley said his client suffered ill health and was awaiting further surgery.
It had been the intention to develop a thriving business which would employ a large number of people, he said.
Lancashire Fuels 4 U had been in talks with the Welsh Government and with Cardiff University about having a testing lab on site.
Mr Ackerley said they consulted environment officials before they started and believed that they started the company legally under the exemptions because of confusion over an email.
But the jury in the trial of a co-defendant found that was not the case.
When told to stop, they did not bring any more waste onto the site, the court heard.
They had applied for an environmental permit, it was refused, and an appeal did not proceed when the company went into liquidation.
At an earlier hearing, director Peter Ogg, who was convicted after trial, received 12 months custody suspended for 21 months and was banned from being a director for seven years.
A financial hearing under The Proceeds of Crime Act will be held in March in respect of both men.