Two men have been ordered to pay costs over £24,000 for illegally disposing of liquid waste from chemical toilets, abattoir washings and other sources into fields across Cornwall.

Neal Tremayne and Brian Matthews, who worked together, pleaded guilty to said environmental offences that took place between the years 2010 and 2018.

Their system

Tremayne used his firm, Carnon Valley Transport, to collect raw sewage, septic tank contents and other controlled wastes from holiday and caravan parks, hotels, a farm, abattoir and a car dealership.

He then put that liquid waste into giant storage tankers belonging to Matthews.

Matthews was paid a quarter of the going rate for legitimate disposal and he did this by injecting the mixture into the ground at agricultural locations he rented in Kehelland, Crosslanes, Sparnock and Mithian in West Cornwall.

While injecting suitable waste into fields is common practice on farms, raw sewage can carry potentially toxic elements - viruses, bacteria and pathogens like salmonella.

During interview, Tremayne claimed he was keeping costs down for customers of his business by paying Matthews £27 to dispose of a 4,500L tanker load of liquid waste - considerably less than the going rate of £60-£100 for proper disposal.

Matthews also admitted during interview that he could only accept septic tank waste, but anything could have been going into tanks at his sites.

Matthews did not have the proper measures in place to check that only septic tank waste was going into his tanks, nor did he have the environmental permits needed to screen and test the waste prior to storage for spreading.

Liquid waste was put into giant storage tanks by Tremayne and Matthews would later inject it into the land. Image: Environment Agency

During the two-year period investigated by the Environment Agency, Matthews accepted around 73 million litres of liquid waste - the equivalent of £432,000 income.

Tremayne admitted failing to give waste transfer notes to customers which detail where waste has come from, its quantity, contents and destination.

Waste transfer notes were produced by Tremayne for one client, an upmarket car retailer. The note claimed car wash effluent was being taken to South West Water for disposal. In reality, it was given to Matthews for injection into the ground.

Court

For negligent culpability and environmental harm, Matthews was ordered to pay £136,674.50 under the Proceeds of Crime Act within three months or face imprisonment, fined £8,000 plus £10,000 in costs at Truro Crown Court on April 14, 2022, bringing the long-running case to a close.

Judge Carr called Matthews’ operation “woefully lax and inadequate”.

He said:

"It was effectively an open-door policy for waste to be deposited. No staff on site, no inspections, no checking of the chits.

"It was no surprise that Brian Matthews was able to charge significantly less for disposal and run a profitable business, making £1.3 million between 2013 and 2019."

For his reckless offending, Tremayne was ordered to pay £80,000 under the Proceeds of Crime Act within three months or face imprisonment, given a four-month prison sentence suspended for 12 months, alongside fines for him and his firm totalling £3,000 plus £3,450 in costs.

A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said:

"When done properly and with care, sludge from sewage plants and septic tanks can provide suitable crop nutrient.

"However, if abused as a cheap and nasty form of disposal to undercut the competitive marketplace, then it is not just legitimate businesses that suffer but also the environment.

"There are regulations in place to prevent toxic chemicals like these from polluting the environment and endangering human health. Ignorance of the rules is not a defence."