On the scrap heap

Recently, Natural Resources Wales carried out an investigation into a metal scrap yard based at Carew Airfield, south west Wales. The scrap yard was found to have been operating without an environmental permit for a period of time. Groundwater supplies within geological layers situated beneath the site were understood to have been polluted by chemicals leaching from the deposited scrap waste via an inadequate drainage system.

Metal scrap collections and storage yards In England and Wales are required to hold a site licence under the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013. Activities regulated by such licences include the buying and selling of scrap metal (or articles including metal), dismantling vehicles and recovering salvageable parts from motor vehicles, as well as trading written-off motor vehicles after repair. Under the conditions of a licence, materials must be separated and sorted into categories upon arrival (such as brass, copper and aluminium). In addition, goods (such as refrigerators, other white goods and cars) must be crushed or shredded and fragmented. Materials deposited on the site at Carew Airfield included batteries, tyres, vehicles and oil drums.

The typical environmental issues relating to the activities of scrap yards are air pollution, radioactive waste, and contamination by heavy metals (lead, copper, cadmium, nickel etc.). In particular, heavy metals can migrate into the subsoil and subsequently into groundwater resources, which happens when scrap materials are deposited and handled directly on the bare ground without any measures in place to prevent leaching. To give an example of protective measures preventing heavy metals from leaching into soil beneath, waste batteries should have all fluids and acids removed and then stored in secure, covered impermeable areas.

Having read the above story, in which polluting activities have led to prosecution, I checked the findings against the data within GroundSure’s historic mapping system. Map 1 below is of the Carew Airfield in 1994. It identifies that a scrap yard was operational within the grounds of the airport at that time. In addition, contemporary aerial photography (Map 2) provides evidence of metal waste having been deposited within this area. This data alone would have indicated the risk of pollution at the site and would have been cause for further investigation.

GroundSure offers a range of Commercial Reports, which include comprehensive and up to date data relating to waste management licences within England and Wales (including type of licence, status, operational dates and the type of waste deposited), as well as historical mapping, recorded pollution incidents and information regarding historic and current landfills. We also provide information on sensitive receptors such as groundwater resources (types of aquifers), potable groundwater abstraction points and proximity to residential areas and designated environmentally sensitive areas.

After the investigation of the metal scrap yard at Carew Airport, BBC article reports that the facility is still operating, although it is now acting in accordance with the regulations.




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