Total UK has pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to charges relating to the Buncefield
explosion. The oil company today admitted two charges under the Health and Safety Act and one of causing pollution. The blast in 2005 at the Buncefield oil depot in Hertfordshire – which supplied 20% of fuels to the south east – injured 43 people and caused millions of pounds’ worth of damage.
Total UK, Hertfordshire Oil Storage, British Pipeline Agency, TAV Engineering and Motherwell Control systems 2003, are being prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency. The other four companies who are being prosecuted were reported to plead not guilty to their charges.
According to the BBC: "Total admitted exposing staff and members of the public to risk, and to allowing water below the depot to become polluted following the blast."
Total issued the following statement: "Total UK has today pleaded guilty to the charges brought against it by the Heath and Safety Executive (HSE) and Environment Agency (EA) at the Central Criminal Court, London.
"As criminal proceedings continue against a number of other defendants, it would be inappropriate to comment further, other than to say that Total UK regrets the unfortunate events at Buncefield in December 2005 and would like to apologise to all those affected by the incident."
Earlier this month Total announced it had submitted plans to Dacorum and St Albans Borough Councils to rebuild the remaining part of the Buncefield oil complex in Hemel Hempstead following a consultation period with the local community, businesses and other stakeholders. It said the new plans included all the recommendations of a subsequent inquiry.
According to the BBC, Total is not expected to be sentenced until trials are held for the other companies. A trial date was provisionally fixed for 14 April 2010 at St Albans Crown Court.