Waste firm to pay £68,500 for liquid cyanide leak in Derbyshire


The Environment Agency has successfully prosecuted a waste transport company for causing liquid cyanide to leak from a lorry at an industrial estate in Heanor, Derbyshire.

At Nottingham Crown Court on Wednesday 21 February 2024, J & G Environmental Ltd of Fareham, Hampshire, were fined £16,000 and ordered to pay costs of £52,500.

The company had previously pleaded guilty to the charge of causing an illegal water discharge. It prompted the Fire Service to set up decontamination protocols and caused hundreds of fish deaths in a nearby pond.

The court was told that the incident occurred on 6 February 2018, when a container was ruptured as the driver started moving them around, having borrowed a forklift truck.

Hundreds of litres of a liquid, which contained diluted cyanide, began to escape going onto the floor before entering the drainage system and natural waterways.

The Fire Service were called and cordoned off the area and set up decontamination protocols to ensure that anyone involved in the incident were fully washed down.

Environment Agency officers were also called and tried to stop the flow of water from nearby ponds.

They also took samples from the dead fish and found that of the 73 sent for testing all were found to have died from cyanide poisoning.

The Environment Agency estimated their clear up costs were in the region of £50,000.

J & G Environmental are contractors offering waste collection and disposal to the printing, photographic and healthcare industry.

On the day of the incident, the company had collected the waste liquid from the Rolls Royce base before the lorry went onto Heanor.

In sentencing the company, Judge Michael Auty noted that it had no previous convictions and had pleaded guilty to the offence.

He also took into account the efforts made by the company more widely to ensure no repetition of a similar incident and to contribute to recycling and environmental welfare were also impressive.

The Judge added that it was unfortunate that the driver was unable to provide any detail of the nature of the liquid being transported and that the absence or availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) created a risk to its employees.

A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said:

“We welcome this sentence as this was a serious pollution which caused considerable disruption besides fish deaths.

“The Environment Agency will pursue any company that fails to uphold the law or protect nature and will continue to press for the strongest possible penalties.

“Failure to comply with these legal requirements is a serious offence that can damage the environment and harm human health.   

“If anyone has environmental concerns they should call our 24/7 hotline on 0800 80 70 60 or Crimestoppers anonymously and in confidence on 0800 555 111.”   

Source: Environment Agency 22nd February 2024