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UK: Two Businesses prosecuted for water pollution in Cumbria

"Serious pollution can have devastating effects on rivers, fields and wildlife and, in some cases, pose a risk to people's health...

Two companies have been prosecuted by the Environment Agency for causing a pollution incident which had the potential to damage water quality, wildlife and habitats.

Recycling firm ByProduct Recovery Ltd, a subsidary of Leeds-based 4R Group, and Millers Contracting Ltd, which operates out of Wigton, both pleaded guilty to causing a water discharge without a valid permit and were each fined £1,000 at Carlisle Magistrates Court on Wednesday 12 December.

On Saturday 25 June 2011, the Environment Agency went to Crummock Beck at Fletchertown, West Cumbria, after receiving a report of a milk pollution incident. Water pollution analysis found extremely elevated levels of suspended solids, which can have a serious impact on fish and invertebrates, as well as affect plant growth. Water samples also showed levels of organic pollution similar to that of cattle slurry.

Millers Contracting had been carrying out land spreading at High Aketon Farm under a land spreading authorisation provided by a ByProduct Recovery, formerly MWH ByProduct Ltd.

It was found that the pollution had been caused by poor spreading and agricultural practice, leading to dairy waste to runoff overland and into the nearby watercourse. No training had been provided by ByProduct Recovery to its contractors to ensure good agricultural practice was being followed.

In mitigation, the court case recognised that both companies had complied with the Environment Agency's investigation. Millers took remedial action after the incident was brought to its attention and ByProduct has since steps to improve its communication with contractors.

On the same day, at Carlisle Magistrates Court, ByProduct Recovery Ltd pleaded guilty to land spreading without an environmental permit after odorous waste was spread on an unauthorised field within 50 metres of residential properties. It was £1,000 for this offence.

The case concerned the spreading of waste carried out on land at Newby Cross, Carlisle, belonging to Orton Grange Farm where ByProduct Recovery Ltd had a contract with Nestle Food Company to remove waste streams from its premises.

An investigation was carried out after the Environment Agency received reports on 15 October 2010 of a foul odour at a housing area in Newby Cross, causing residents to stay indoors, shut windows and feel sick. One local resident described said there had been a "very bad sickly smell like rotting flesh".

At the time of the incident, Millers Contracting Ltd was working for ByProduct Recovery and had been provided with an inaccurate map showing the field in question was authorised to be spread upon.

The Environment Agency's investigations established that land spreading had been carried out not in accordance with exemptions from the requirement to hold an environmental permit.

ByProduct Recovery was responsible for the spreading activity and the actions of its contractor.

Unauthorised waste was spread to the land without any waste analysis, agricultural benefit statement or risk assessment and the company was unable to state on which fields this waste has been spread. The company also made false statements in interview and provided false records regarding the accuracy of records and the amount of waste spread to land.

Since meeting with the Environment Agency, ByProduct Recovery has submitted an Odour Control Protocol and an Improvement Plan for Orton Grange.

Catherine Evans, Lead Investigating Officer, said:
"The Environment Agency has strict regulations in place to ensure land spreading of waste provides benefits for the soil and doesn't harm human health or the environment."

"Serious pollution can have devastating effects on rivers, fields and wildlife and, in some cases, pose a risk to people's health. It is our role to investigate pollution incidents such as these to find the source, stop the problem and understand how best to reduce any impacts on local communities and the environment."