St Albans businessman faces trial over huge waste fire in Essex

PUBLISHED: 14:00 11 September 2015

Firefighters spent days tackling a blaze in a large pile of wood in Mountnessing, Essex. Photo courtesy of Essex County Fire and Rescue Service

Firefighters spent days tackling a blaze in a large pile of wood in Mountnessing, Essex. Photo courtesy of Essex County Fire and Rescue Service

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service

A St Albans businessman, accused of operating an unauthorised waste and storage site in Essex, where thousands of tonnes of woodchip burned for weeks, now faces a Crown Court trial.

Firefighters spent days tackling a blaze in a large pile of wood in Mountnessing, Essex. Photo courtesy of Essex County Fire and Rescue ServiceFirefighters spent days tackling a blaze in a large pile of wood in Mountnessing, Essex. Photo courtesy of Essex County Fire and Rescue Service

In mid-August last year, eight pumps were sent to tackle a blaze at Thoby Priory, Mountnessing, near Brentwood.

The Essex County Fire and Rescue Service committed well over 1,000 hours on the site, finally leaving the scene in mid-October.

The facility is surrounded by industrial sites, including scrapyards and agricultural equipment.

An aerial ladder platform was used to douse flames from above, and at one stage there were so many flames that a large smoke plume appeared in the sky.

At the time, firefighters recommended residents to keep doors and windows closed.

At Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court yesterday (Thursday), it was ruled that the case of Joshua O’Malley, 26, formerly of Doggetts Way in St Albans, and now of Vale Court, Wheathampstead, and his company, Creative Developments and Construction, based in Long Cutt, Redbourn, should be dealt with at Chelmsford Crown Court.

The ruling followed an application by the Environment Agency (EA) for the case to go to the higher court.

The company and Mr O’Malley are each accused of operating a regulated facility, namely a waste operation for the deposit, storage and treatment of waste without being authorised by an environmental permit between May 7 and October 16, 2014.

They are also accused of treating controlled waste in a manner likely to cause pollution or harm to human health.

No pleas have been entered.

EA prosecutor Miriam Tordoff said it was alleged that the fire, which broke out in over 8,000 tonnes of waste wood, polluted 10km of water course, killing fish. She said that there were also impacts upon local residents.

The woodchip pile was said to be 50m by 30m by 15m high.

Mr O’Malley could be sent to prison and/or face a fine of up to £50,000 if convicted and the company could also be fined up to £50,000.

A hearing at the Crown Court has been scheduled for November 30.

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