BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in:  UK: England
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Tuesday, 19 March, 2002, 16:23 GMT
Spot-check closes toxic plant
Chemicals at Absolute Solvents Ltd
Absolent Solvents Ltd has been ordered to stop work
A chemical waste plant has been closed down after a surprise inspection found toxic fumes were being released into the air.

Absolute Solvents Limited may now face prosecution for the leak from its factory in Westbury, Wiltshire.

The company must find the source and face strict tests before it can start work again.

It is likely to remain closed for several weeks.

We served the prohibition notice straight away to stop this serious pollution

Colin Babb, Environment Agency
Environment Agency inspectors discovered the leak when they made an unannounced spot-check.

They noticed a strong smell coming from the plant in Brook Lane, Westbury.

Agency spokesman Mike Dunning said: "They should not have been able to smell it to anything like the extent they experienced."

Asked whether the smell should have been obvious to workers, he said: "One would have thought so."

Instant shutdown

A pollution filter system was not working and waste solvents - volatile organic compounds - were being released into the atmosphere at ground level.

Toxic emissions from the plant could contribute to low-level ozone pollution, similar to that caused by traffic fumes, said Mr Dunning.

Absolute Solvents site
Inspectors found ground-level pollution
The inspectors ordered an immediate shutdown of the affected area - meaning the whole factory had to close.

The company refused to comment on the incident.

Mr Dunning said: "They have to pinpoint the problem, bring in expert advisers to solve it, and demonstrate to the Environment Agency that they have taken the appropriate advice.

"Then they have a trial period while they operate the new system."

'Serious' leak

Only then can it be given back a licence for its solvent distillation and evaporation process.

Absolute Solvents took over the authorisation from the previous holder, Western Solvents, in December.

Colin Babb, an agency site inspector, said: "Absolute Solvents had been operating its plant without the necessary pollution control equipment.

"We served the prohibition notice straight away to stop this serious pollution.

"We are investigating the matter thoroughly and will consider all the factors before making a decision on further action.

"We are certainly not ruling out a prosecution."

Click here to go to BBC Wiltshire
See also:

18 Feb 02 | England
Villagers warned of toxic fumes
08 Feb 00 | Sci/Tech
Toxic fumes force families out
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more England stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more England stories