Industrial Chemicals on Tyneside has been fined £10,000 by the Environment Agency after pleading guilty to two breaches of its environmental permit, admitting that in September 2010, poor controls and the failure of staff to follow set procedures, allowed nitrogen oxide to escape from its Hebburn plant.

Peter Duffy, regulatory officer at the Environment Agency, said the company was lucky the weather conditions had prevented the cloud from causing real harm.

This was a potentially serious incident, and had the prevailing wind been in a different direction, it could have been much worse. The company failed to follow its site procedures which resulted in the incident.