Firm cleared of causing cloud of dust pollution
A JUDGE has dismissed the case against a company in Avonmouth accused of polluting the air with wood particles that sent clouds of dust onto residents' properties.
District Judge David Parsons threw out charges brought by the Environment Agency against EGNI Ltd after hearing from an "evasive and self-serving" witness who worked for a competing company.
Edward Jones, co-director of EGNI Ltd, was accused of contravening an environmental permit at Bristol Magistrates' Court. He denied the charges and was found not guilty yesterday after a two-day trial.
Judge Parsons said that, although there was evidence showing dust had been emitted from Avonmouth Port on September 2 last year, he could not be certain where it had come from.
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He said: "I have seen the photos showing graphically the damage to the environment caused by the wood processing.
"I have also seen evidence that the company in question was a source of the pollution. However, they treat their wood in very close proximity to another plant. On September 2 both operations were processing wood."
On Tuesday the court heard evidence from Christopher Nicholls, production manager for neighbouring wood processing plant Boomeco.
Mr Nicholls told the court that his site was not to blame for the dust as he had switched off his machinery as soon as he heard complaints from residents.
But Judge Parsons said: "The evidence I heard from Mr Nicholls was evasive and self-serving. It could not be relied upon."
The court had previously heard how dust had been "snowing down" on properties in King Street and Richmond Terrace in Avonmouth.
Yesterday, in court, five officers from the Environment Agency described the dust on September 2.
Andrew Palfrey said he saw "thick and furry" dust outside the F Shed, where EGNI had been operating. Trudy Dove added: "All the area around F Shed was blanketed in dust."
The judge had also heard evidence from Arnold Miller, the city council officer responsible for pollution monitoring at Avonmouth docks. But his arrival on the scene, along with the Environment Agency, to find only EGNI operating was deemed too late. Mr Parsons pointed out that "significant amounts" of the dust could have been produced earlier when both companies were engaged in the process.
Mr Jones, who the court heard is the director of four companies and has previously been the director of 11 more, which have gone into liquidation or have been dissolved, moved his wood processing plant to another site on Avonmouth docks shortly after the incident.