IT is four years this month that two scrap vehicle merchants who poured waste oil into watercourses in Worcester, risking contaminating water supplies and killing wildlife, were jailed.

Worcester Crown Court heard in June 2016 that only emergency action by the Environment Agency stopped 250 litres of heavy and thick lubricating oil from reaching Barbourne Brook and getting into the ponds at Gheluvelt Park.

It had been allowed to drain from a site on Blackpole Trading Estate where Ronald Calder and Giles Detheridge were working on scrap vehicles.

Calder, 53, of Hurcot Road, Kidderminster, and 35-year-old Detheridge, of Hartle Lane, Belbroughton, started operating the site as C&D Metals in August 2011, but failed to carry out work to seal the drainage, Judge Robert Juckes, QC, said.

An estimated 200 “end-of-life” vehicles, scrapped at the site, had oil removed from them, without making the site environmentally safe.

The legitimate business that operated at the site had to spend £130,000 preparing it correctly, the judge said.

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Calder and Detheridge had been given a warning a year before, in August 2010, when they operated in Navigation Road, Worcester, without an environmental permit.

The pair moved the operation to the larger site in Blackpole, leasing it from the Bruce Trust run by 43-year-old John Bruce, of Crabbe Yard, Crabbe Lane, Pershore – because they needed more space.

“No steps were taken to carry out the sealing and drainage work,” the judge said.

In May 2012, the Environment Agency was alerted to oil in the tributary of Barbourne Brook and “mercifully” took action by putting in booms and taking other measures.

The judge said: “If that had not been done, the contamination would have got into the brook itself and into the ponds at Gheluvelt Park. Such things have caused the death of birds and animals.”

He added there had been a “real risk” to wildlife.

Calder and Detheridge both pleaded guilty to operating the site without a permit between August 2011 and December 2012. Calder also admitted knowingly allowing the oil to pour into the freshwater tributary between May 2012 and November 2012, failing to comply with an anti-pollution order in December 2012 and failing to provide copies of notes to do with controlled waste in November 2012.

Bruce pleaded guilty to knowingly allowing the oil to be discharged into the water between May 2012 and November 2012 and allowing the site to be used without a proper environmental permit between November 2011 and November 2012.

The judge agreed Detheridge had ceased to be actively involved in the site from January 2012, but said he had been an equal partner in the business with Calder, who “ignored” notices served on him.

Bruce, he said, had been jailed before for breaching environmental regulations and had leased the land knowing the nature of the work without ensuring there were proper permits.

Calder was jailed for 11 months and Detheridge for six months. Bruce was fined £1,000 on each charge which he had to pay within two months, or face 45 days in jail. He was given 28 months to pay the £28,000 costs.

An Environment Agency spokesman said its officers “acted promptly” to contain the oil, and ensure it did not enter and contaminate the main brook and drinking water supply, from the River Severn further downstream.

The spokesman said stolen metal was also found at the site by West Mercia Constabulary, and police and agency officers worked together to investigate these activities and prevent metal being taken to the site.

Speaking after the case, Lyndon Essex, Environment Agency officer in charge of the investigation, said: “Having an environmental permit to run a waste site is important as this sets the standards and infrastructure that is necessary to prevent harm to the environment and human health.

“These standards were not present at this site and as a result oils ran into the ground and Barbourne Brook.

“Calder and Detheridge also undercut other legitimate waste operators by operating this site.

“We take waste crime very seriously and will not hesitate to take legal action to protect people and the environment and ensure a level playing field for business.”