AN AMMAN Valley farmer has appeared in court after he was caught illegally dumping and burning waste on his land.

Despite knowing he was under investigation by environmental inspectors, Andrew Paul Thomas continued his unlawful business, going to great lengths to try and bury the evidence and cover it with soil.

Inspectors from Natural Resources Wales found 12ft high piles of rubbish on the farm including old tyres, fridges and carpets.

Swansea Crown Court heard Thomas has previous convictions for animal welfare offences relating to a dog-breeding business, and for handling stolen sheep.

Jon Tarrant, prosecuting, said Natural Resources Wales began investigating Gwndwngwyn farm near Garnant in January 2019 following reports from members of the public about burning activity on the site. Inspectors found large amounts of waste being stored at the site and Thomas was given guidance about the need to apply for registration.

During subsequent trips the inspectors found large amounts of waste including TVs, builders' rubble, gas cylinders and household and garden waste. There was also evidence of large-scale burning on the site.

The court heard that 53-year-old Thomas was kept under surveillance and he was seen making a number of trips to a scrap metal merchant in Ammanford where he sold the inner wire cording recovered from burnt tyres.

Inquiries with the scrap business revealed Thomas had been paid almost £20,000 in the previous 12 months for metal waste he had taken there.

The defendant was served with a stop notice and was ordered to safely remove the waste from his land.

The prosecutor said inspectors returned to the farm in March 2020 and found "active efforts had been made to conceal waste" with large amounts of waste buried and covered with top soil.

Natural Resources Wales discovered rubbish being illegally dumped by Andrew Thomas on his Garnant farm Pictures: NRW

Natural Resources Wales discovered rubbish being illegally dumped by Andrew Thomas on his Garnant farm Pictures: NRW

Mr Tarrant said the buried waste would not only produced methane as it broke down but that leachate – liquids containing harmful substances leaking from the waste – could make its way into the soil, water courses, or the nearby marshland.

Thomas, of Gwndwngwyn Farm, Bryncethin Road, Garnant, admitted the unregulated carrying of waste, disposal of waste in a way likely to cause harm to the environment, and failing to comply with a stop notice.

The judge sentenced Thomas to 10 months in prison suspended for 18 months and ordered him to complete 200 hours of unpaid work and a rehabilitation course.

Speaking after the hearing David Ellar, team leader of the south west regulation team of Natural Resources Wales, said: “This was a serious offence and the sentencing reflects that.

“Thomas went to great lengths to try to get away with the illegal dumping, burning and burying of waste at this farm. It was not only a blight on the countryside but had a real impact on the lives of those subjected to the sight, smell and smoke caused by the activity.

“Our investigation was complex and involved working closely with several of our partner organisations including police and the fire and rescue service.

“This successful prosecution will not only stop Mr Thomas from illegally disposing of waste but will clearly show anyone trying to take shortcuts in the waste industry that they will be investigated by Natural Resources Wales and pursued through the courts when necessary.”