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Pirbright Dump Being Investigated Following Reports of Toxic Waste Disposal

Published on: 30 Jun, 2021
Updated on: 30 Jun, 2021

By Hugh Coakley

The Environment Agency and Guildford Borough Council are investigating reports of hazardous waste being dumped at a site in Pirbright. GBC says it has allocated £120,000 towards enforcement action.

Drums said to be on the Stoney Castle site in Pirbright are suspected of containing highly toxic PCB chemicals.

Images on Twitter and published in the Ends Report, the environmental business and policy journal, showed rusty oil drums with “insulating oil” printed on their side.

Toxic Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were formerly used as insulating or transformer oil and there is concern that this is what the drums contain. PCBs are not biodegradable, making them difficult to dispose of safely. They should not be burnt and are one of the original 12 persistent organic pollutants banned under the Stockholm Convention.

The Ends Report article says information about the dump, which the report claims is the largest in Surrey, was sent to the authorities this week.

The site by the Stoney Castle army range on Grange Road, Pirbright, is on the edge of heathland on Pirbright Common and adjacent to a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) and a special protection area (SPA).

Printing on one of the barrels says “insulating oil”, indicative of the presence of toxic PCB chemicals

There were reports on social media of a “yellow gunge” in the Mill Lane stream, fed from Hodges Brook which runs past the site.

Emma Foy, whose grandparents live nearby, said she could see the fuel containers and tyres dumped and smoke from the fires from the site. She said her grandmother’s dog had lost its fur due to paddling in the polluted stream.

A group calling themselves Surrey Illegal Waste, who say they wish to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, have been calling for Surrey County Council, the Waste Planning Authority, to take enforcement action against the occupiers of the site. They claim SCC is “breaking their legal responsibilities as a waste authority by not prosecuting the occupiers for flytipping on the site”.

The site at Stoney Castle, Pirbright is said to have been in use for over 30 years. Hodges Brook runs adjacent to the site’s southern boundary. Google Maps

A county council spokesperson said: “The ultimate responsibility for the site rests with the landowner and his representatives. Surrey County Council is one of several agencies involved in ongoing activities at this site. We will await the outcome of ongoing investigations from other agencies, and will liaise with them regarding any future action that falls under our remit.”

A statement from GBC read: “The Stoney Castle site remains one of our priorities as we work with our partners to focus on achieving compliance with legislation under our area of responsibility.”

An Environment Agency spokesperson said that they were aware of a number of issues at the Stoney Park site adding: “it is subject to an ongoing investigation by ourselves and Guildford Borough Council”.

Cllr Keith Witham

SCC councillor for Worplesdon and GBC councillor for Pirbright, Keith Witham (Cons) said there was “ongoing enforcement action underway” with the Environment Agency, SCC and GBC involved. He said he had discussed the issue “robustly” with the GBC head of planning enforcement.

Surrey County Council took court action in 2018 against Daniel Hill, who appeared in the reality TV show Storage Hunters UK, for not taking the necessary action to stop illegal dumping. Mr Hill was prosecuted and fined £2,500 plus costs and a confiscation order of £26,000 imposed.

His father Robin owns the site and has given his son power of attorney, but son Daniel claims this gives him no legal powers to stop site access.

He is currently considering an appeal against his conviction in an action brought by SCC which they consider a success.

Daniel Hill said: “The conviction was regarding my involvement in 2015, seven years ago and the waste has continued and increased substantially. The prosecution had had no impact. It definitely cannot be considered successful.”

The Dragon is trying to make contact with those operating the site.

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