Firms charged in Buncefield storage depot fire

Total UK, Hertfordshire Oil Storage, British Pipeline Agency, TAV Engineering, and Motherwell Control Systems will be criminally prosecuted for the December 2005 Buncefield oil storage depot fire in Hertfordshire, UK.

Uchenna Izundu
International Editor

LONDON, Dec. 5 -- Total UK Ltd., Hertfordshire Oil Storage Ltd. (HOSL), British Pipeline Agency Ltd. (BPA), TAV Engineering Ltd., and Motherwell Control Systems 2003 Ltd. will be criminally prosecuted for the December 2005 Buncefield oil storage depot fire in Hertfordshire, UK. The companies must appear in court on Jan. 23, 2009.

The companies face the proceedings after the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency carried out an investigation and published its reports. The agencies are jointly responsible for regulating nonnuclear hazardous industrial sites in the UK.

During the incident there were a number of explosions, and 43 people were injured.

Total is being accused of failing to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of its employees, failing to protect persons not in their employment, and polluting groundwater near the plant.

Total said it had sought legal advice and would consider its position once all the relevant papers have been served.

HOSL is facing two charges: failing to prevent a major accident and limit its consequences to persons and the environment, and polluting groundwater.

Hundreds of businesses, insurance companies, and local residents are seeking a total of £700 million in damages from Total and HOSL in a separate civil lawsuit.

BPA was charged with failing to take all necessary measures to prevent major accidents, and pollution groundwater.

TAV Engineering and Motherwell are being prosecuted for failing to protect the health and safety of people not in their employment.

In 2006, investigators said 300 tons of gasoline had escaped from a tank, but they were unable to identify the reason behind the ignition at the depot, 40 km north of London.

The UK minister for health and safety said in response to the investigation's recommendations that planning for emergencies was improving as was the effectiveness of emergency responses at major hazard sites. There also has been careful planning to maintain the resilience of the UK's fuel supply.

Contact Uchenna Izundu at uchennai@pennwell.com.

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