An energy crop grower with a poor environmental record is fined for Fenland pollution
An energy crop grower has been forced to pay more than forty-five thousand pounds in fines, costs, and compensation after polluting a couple of Fenland watercourses.
The Pretoria Energy Company (Arable) Limited grows feedstock for a sister company to use in anaerobic digestion plants. The pollution took place at Little Racy Drain in Norfolk and the New Cut Drain (West) in Cambridgeshire, both thanks to silage liquor leaking from ag-bags before finding its way into the watercourses.
Ag-bags are huge bags used in agriculture. They are often used to store agricultural feeds, sealed and left outdoors. Direct sunlight on the bags creates a large amount of gas and silage liquor. To reduce the pressure, the gas must be released and the liqor removed regularly. In this case, the 8 ag-bags in question were each 77 metres long and filled with 318 tonnes of silage, and hadn’t been looked after properly.
In February 2017 a member of the public contacted The Environment Agency about the pollution, later found to be leaking from ag-bags in Emneth. Some of the bags had holes in the sides where the silage liquor had leaked out, and sewage fungus was found growing 300m downstream.
While the company agreed to deal with the issue in early February 2017, nothing had been done by the next visit which took place in late March the same year. In July 2017 a council employee attending the site found five of the leaky ag-bags still on-site. A second location, Aldreth in Cambridgeshire, saw two separate pollution incidents in May. Samples taken in late June found the water to be “clearly harmful” to biodiversity.
The company confessed to causing both incidents. They blamed the extreme weather for ag-bags bursting and the fact that the ground was too hard to absorb the leakage.
This isn’t the business’ first pollution incident. They have previous convictions for two similar offences in 2014. Magistrates found the company was ‘reckless’ and hopes that the large fine acts as a deterrent to others.
South West Water pays out a fortune to the Westcountry Rivers Trust
South West Water will be paying £350,000 to the Westcountry Rivers Trust to help a Devon river recover from the pollution it caused. It’s an Enforcement Undertaking accepted by the Environment Agency as an alternative to prosecution, and the cash will be spent on waterways in the Plymouth area.
In late summer 2016, the Environment Agency traced dead fish to a pollution incident at an overflowing manhole on SWW’s sewer network. It killed more than 100 brown trout, discovered where the Tamerton Stream enters the Tavy estuary.
The Tamerton Stream is no stranger to pollution incidents. It has suffered from several over recent years. South West Water has cleaned the main sewer line that runs through the woods since the incident took place and this should reduce the risk of further pollution.
More farm pollution – Northern Irish farmer pollutes a waterway
A farmer in Northern Ireland who let farm effluent flow into a waterway has been fined £1000 by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. A water quality inspector who was acting for the Northern Ireland Environment Agency found masses of sewage fungus growing in a tributary of the Mill Burn and traced it upstream to a discharge of farm effluent from a waterlogged field. A sample was analysed and was found to contain ‘poisonous, noxious, or polluting matter’ potentially harmful to fish.
Surfers Against Sewage warn beach-lovers in Cornwall
Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) claims storm sewage has been discharged from overflows right around the coast of Cornwall. And they’ve been trying to persuade people to stay out of the water because of the risks to health.
Problems were reported at Long Rock, Pentewan, Par, Millendreath, Seaton, Summerleaze, Crooklets, Mawgan Porth and many more beaches. Untreated sewage and wastewater often escapes from the thousands of coastal sewer overflows that dot the coast of Britain. Sometimes it reduces the water quality ‘significantly’. When this happens SAS is automatically notified via a real-time sewage alert via the Safer Seas Service.
The heavy rain we’ve been having compounds the risk. Water quality can be seriously reduced by heavy rainfall, which brings with it all sorts of pollutants from roads, towns, farms and septic tanks. When combined the effect can be very nasty indeed. But, as South West Water says, “The impact of this heavily diluted stormwater is short-lived and bathing waters are only impacted during the kind of weather we experienced.”
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David Cole MSEE
David is a pioneer of the spill containment and water pollution prevention industry with 30 years experience. He was instrumental in the development of CIRIA736 with The Environment Agency and is passionate about preventing water pollution.