Large piles of decomposing waste giving off heat and steam were found at a processing site months before a serious blaze broke out there, a court heard.
Environment officers from Natural Resources Wales saw piles of waste - including wood, plastics, textiles and other materials stacked in sheds and in the grounds of the Lancashire Fuels 4U Limited premises on River Lane, Saltney.
Andrew Sowerby and his colleague Aled Zachary told Caernarfon Crown Court they visited the site with North Wales Fire & Rescue Service officials in December 2013, six months before a huge fire erupted at the site.
Fire at the Lancashire Fuels 4U site in Saltney in May 2014
Richard Paul Baison, 63, of Pendleton Avenue, Rossendale, Lancashire and Peter John Ogg, 58, formerly of Dinorwic Street, Southport, both directors of Lancashire Fuels 4U Ltd, deny running the premises in a manner likely to harm the environment or human health and without a proper permit.
Mr Sowerby told the jury: “We saw waste being stored and steam rising from it. It seemed to show composting going on.”
The firm never had an environmental permit to process waste such as wood, paper, plastics and refuse derived fuel (RDF) and convert it into fuel pellets and briquettes.
It had registered exemptions to store waste such as wood, paper and plastics and to carry out some limited processing of these wastes such as shredding. However these exemptions contained provisions that must be met, such as limits on quantities and requirements to accept, store and treat each waste type separately and not mixed together.
Under cross examination by defence barrister Dave Ackerley, Mr Sowerby said the operation on the site wasn’t covered by exemptions to store additional waste which was “illegal.”
When questioned earlier by prosecutor Christopher Stables, Mr Sowerby said the firm had failed to comply with all 14 exemptions that they had registered for treating waste, “because the waste they were storing was all mixed.”
Mr Sowerby said: “There was no segregation of any waste streams (types of waste).”
The case continues.