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Hazardous waste ‘dumped in drains’

Union calls for inquiry after reports of latest Serco scandal

by Paddy McGuffin

A UNION demanded an urgent inquiry yesterday into allegations that hazardous waste has been unlawfully dumped down public drains in west London by notorious contractor Serco.

Refuse, recycling and street cleaning union GMB called on both the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Environment Agency to investigate the claims, which concern the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, as a matter of urgency.

After each round, the refuse lorries are normally hosed down and cleaned, with the run-off and waste water collected and put into sealed barrels that should be disposed of in a particular way, GMB said.

However, the union accused Serco of repeatedly telling its staff to dispose of this hazardous waste water in public drains next to flats in Samuels Court and Field Road in Hammersmith and Fulham.

They believe this practice had been continuing for some time.

The disposal of the waste water into a public drain would contravene the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Further, it is alleged that no risk assessment was performed, no safe system of work was in place and no personal protective equipment was provided for the task, all of which are potential breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Serco has run the £140 million waste management and street cleaning contract in Hammersmith and Fulham since 2008.

GMB regional secretary Warren Kenny said the union had “significant concerns not just in relation to the health and safety of our members but to the members of the public living in the area due to the potential exposure to prohibited substances.

“This unregulated disposal of potentially hazardous waste is unacceptable and GMB members and the public must be protected from such unscrupulous practices.

“If Serco are unable to carry out this £140m contract in a legitimate way, then Hammersmith and Fulham should take it back in-house.”

Serco did not respond to a request for comment before the Star went to press, while HSE said it had not received a letter from the GMB.

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