Honolulu's sticky situation
Published: 13 Sep 2013
Hawaii is often seen as an idyllic holiday destination, a place of sun, sea and sand. However, following a 1,400 tonne treacle spill off the coast, warnings have been issued against swimming as the treacle may attract sharks.
A leak was found in a pipeline which is used to load treacle onto ships. As a result of the spill, a large brown sugary slick can be seen in Honolulu's harbour and nearby lagoon.
It has also had serious environmental consequences. The State Health Department commented, "the substance is polluting the water, causing fish to die and could lead to an increase in predator species such as sharks, barracuda and eels."
There is also a slight worry that the increase in sugar in the water could promote the growth of algae.
Although the pipe is now repaired, the environmental damage has been done. Health officials expect the slick to be visible for weeks until tides and currents flush it out.
Company given huge fine after lifting equipment fatality
Published: 11 Sep 2013
A company based in Kent has been ordered to pay more than £180,000 in fines and costs after a worker was killed by dangerous lifting equipment on a tipper lorry.
The fatal accident occurred in November 2009 at a domestic address where Brian Peek from Ashford had been unloading bags of hardcore and aggregate for Moores Turf & Top Soil Limited.
The lorry was fitted with a small crane and clam shell bucket, which he used to grab the bags and lower them to the ground. As Mr Peek unloaded the final bag, he leant over the back of the lorry and the crane turned around, trapping his neck between the bucket and the back of the lorry’s tipping body. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the equipment supplied to Mr Peek was in a poor state of repair and that the system of work employed to unload bulk bags of aggregate and hardcore was unsafe.
The incident could have been prevented had more suitable equipment been provided for the unloading task, such as a flatbed lorry and forklift truck. Moores had such equipment available for use, but chose to send the crane-mounted tipper instead.
Moores Turf & Top Soil Limited was fined a total of £85,000 and ordered to pay a further £97,791 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
After sentencing, HSE Principal Inspector Mike Walters said, "Brian Peek’s tragic death could and should have been prevented. The lifting equipment on the lorry was badly maintained and simply wasn’t safe for use. It was also unnecessary because the firm had better equipment more suited to the job, which could have been used instead."
He continued, "Employers must ensure that they properly maintain lifting equipment, and that they provide their employees with the most suitable and appropriate equipment for the tasks they undertake. They must also ensure that safe systems of work are followed on-site during the unloading of goods from vehicles."
For more information, see:
Update on EU water quality legislation
Published: 11 Sep 2013
The provisions include:
- a new "watch list" of chemicals to be monitored with a view to possibly regulating them under EU water legislation, which must be set up by 1 September 2014;
- updated environmental quality standards (EQS) for certain existing priority substances, which will apply from 22 December 2015;
- EQS for certain new priority substances, which will apply from 22 December 2018.
The extension of the existing list of priority substances includes the addition of new components of different types (drugs, pesticides, chemicals, etc.), dicofol, Pfos, dioxins, bifenox, cibutrina, Cypermethrin, etc., the modification of the standards of environmental quality for some compounds and the inclusion of such standards in biota (fish) for certain substances.
Blue paint error leaves councillors red faced
Published: 10 Sep 2013
The traditional red telephone box is not only a structure that has become synonymous with the British image, but it is becoming largely redundant.
As a result, those places with a red telephone box are trying to come up with new uses for them to ensure that they are still used and do not disappear from our landscape.
Montgomery town council in Powys turned its listed, disused phone box into a mini tourist information centre. They installed racks and leaflets into the traditional phone box, but councillors fell foul of the council's own planners after it painted its listed telephone box blue, covering over the red. As it is listed, such an action requires planning permission, which they did not have.
As a result, a retrospective planning application has had to be submitted, and the town Mayor Mike Mills admitted that the box may have to be repainted red. Mr Mills said, "It stood there for a bit while we decided what to do with it and then we decided it would make a good tourist information centre". He added, "We painted it blue to match the colour on the town newsletter and it is quite eye-catching in blue, but since then we've discovered that we needed planning permission to repaint it. We knew the phone box was listed but we didn't realise we'd need planning permission to repaint it."
For more information, see the:
- Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990;
- Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Regulations SI 1990/1519;
Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Wales) Regulations SI 2012/793.
Scotland get help with new waste changes
Published: 06 Sep 2013
Scottish businesses are being encouraged to make the most of free support available to help them comply with new changes to waste legislation.
At the moment, awareness of the Waste (Scotland) Regulations SSI 2011/226 remains low, but a new campaign and communications initiative has now been launched.
From January 2014, almost every organisation will have to recycle their plastic, metal, glass, paper and card. Food businesses that produce more than 50kg of food waste per week will also be required to separate it for collection. There will be some exemptions however, for rural businesses.
Regulators will have the power to fine firms that are not compliant, but have insisted they will take a "pragmatic approach." National operations waste unit manager at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), Adrian Bond, said he will be working with Zero Waste Scotland to raise awareness of the new laws and there will be a sensible, but not soft, approach to compliance.
He commented, "Over the last year, the progress made by businesses to engage in recycling has been encouraging and we are confident the support available from ourselves, Resource Efficient Scotland and local authorities will help drive home the importance of preparing for the coming changes."
Estimates from Zero Waste Scotland indicate that Scotland is currently paying £95m in landfill taxes to throw away key recyclates valued at 97m. The Regulations will offer the potential to boost Scotland's economy and create green jobs, and will play a key role in helping Scotland reach its target of 70% recycling of all waste by 2025.
For more information, see:
Opinions divided on biodiversity offsetting
Published: 06 Sep 2013
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has published a green paper on biodiversity offsetting. The idea behind offsetting is that if someone plans a development in environmentally sensitive areas, they will be allowed to carry out the development if they could offset damage by paying for conservation activities elsewhere.
The plan is certainly a controversial one and is dividing opinions amongst different groups.
Environment Secretary Owen Patterson said, "Offsetting is an exciting opportunity to look at how we can improve the environment as well as grow the economy". He added, "There is no reason why wildlife and development can't flourish side by side."
In March, a report from the Government's Ecosystems Markets Task Force recommended that the offsetting scheme should be rolled out as a matter of priority, whilst some campaign groups disagree.
The Woodland Trust's chief executive Sue Holden believes that offsetting should be used only as a last resort, whilst Friends of the Earth (FOE) said that the plans are a licence to "trash nature".
FOE's nature campaigner Sandra Bell said, "Instead of putting nature up for sale, the Government should strengthen its protection through the planning system and set out bold plans to safeguard and restore wildlife across the UK."
Defra has launched a consultation on their biodiversity offsetting scheme, which will end on 7 November 2013.