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UK foam converter fined for polluting river

By David Reed, UT EditorRochdale, UK-The UK’s Environment Agency has prosecuted GNG Foam Converters (Lancashire) Ltd, a polyurethane foam converter, for polluting a river close to its site in Littleborough, in England’s northwest. As a result, the firm was fined £4000 (almost $7000) by Rochdale Magistrates’ Court. The court also ordered the company to pay a further £4342.30 in costs to the Environment Agency, which brought the prosecution.The case was brought following an incident on Saturday 12 June 2004, when some members of the public contacted the Environment Agency on its free 24-hour emergency hotline number, 0800 80 70 60, to report dead fish in the River Roch at Littleborough. An EA officer went to the scene, and further investigations established that a tank of vehicle-washing chemicals on GNG Foam Converters’ premises had been vandalised, a 22 July 2005 statement from the Environment Agency said.A diesel tank on the same premises is surrounded by a brick barrier to contain spillages, but GNG reported that it had not considered the chemicals in the vehicle-wash tank harmful. However, the Agency pointed out, the tank was labelled as holding a corrosive liquid containing sodium hydroxide. And a data sheet supplied by GNG explained that the chemicals were harmful to water creatures and could have long-term adverse effects on a river environment. The data sheet also clearly stated that, if the liquid was spilled accidentally, the area should be flushed with plenty of water but that it should not on any account be allowed to get into waterways, the Agency added.Jane Morgan, prosecuting, told the court that the Environment Agency accepted there had been vandalism of GNG’s vehicle-wash tank. However, she pointed out that there had been a number of failures on GNG’s part regarding the use and storage of the vehicle-wash chemical close to a surface water drain known to connect to the nearby river. The company should also have been aware of the nature of chemicals on site, she added. There were no measures in place to prevent spillages reaching the river. In short, the incident could have been avoided, the prosecutor concluded.The website of the GNG Group of Companies says the 27-year-old firm supplies a range of foam-based products for a wide variety of applications ranging from mattresses to sport safety wear. It supplies simple high-volume items as well as bespoke products and has three key brands: Komfi – visco-elastic memory foam mattresses and accessories; Surface Care – mattresses and accessories for the care home/nursing market; and Big Red – sport safety wear items.”

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