Composting company fined £20,000 for stream pollution

A COMPOSTING company has been fined £20,000 after polluting a stream, causing a detrimental environmental impact on the wildlife. Environmental specialists, ADAS Holdings Ltd, admitted allowing 480,000 litres of liquid waste to end up in a tributary of

A COMPOSTING company has been fined £20,000 after polluting a stream, causing a "detrimental environmental impact on the wildlife."

Environmental specialists, ADAS Holdings Ltd, admitted allowing 480,000 litres of liquid waste to end up in a tributary of the Cranbrook drain north of St Ives.

The company, which has a composting plant at The Heath in Woodhurst was charged under S85 of the Waters Resources Act 1991 after causing poisonous, noxious or polluting matter to enter the water in February of this year.

Last Wednesday magistrates in Huntingdon were told the waste liquid not only polluted the water but also damaged the aquatic life in the stream. A dead fish was found in the stream and 1.5km downstream at Cuckoo Bridge, Environmental Agency officers said there was a "sticky, sweet smell of decay" and samples showed levels of pollution five times higher than crude sewage.

Prosecuting, Anne-Lise McDonald said: "Environmental Agency officers described the water as black and odorous and an ecological survey showed the pollution had a detrimental environmental impact on wildlife living in the drain. The liquid was grossly polluting to aquatic life and was strong enough to have a toxic affect."

The waste liquid found it way into the stream after being pumped by an ADAS employee from a storage lagoon on site into a field at the back of the company's premise. A pipe leading from the field allowed the liquid to flow into the Cranbrook Drain turning it black.

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Magistrates were told that there were three lagoons on site designed to store leachate until it is used in the composting process. Following a complaint about the smell emitting from the site in February this year, a member of staff decided to pump out one of the lagoons into the field.

However, the court heard there was actually no need to do this as one of the company's other lagoons on the site was virtually empty.

The liquid was pumped from 11am on Saturday, February 4, to 7am the following morning as staff forgot to turn off the pump overnight.

In court, the company offered its sincere apologies.

Defending ADAS, Peter Bond, said: "This was a regrettable incident and the work force and procedures on the site needed to be updated and put in place. This was not an attempt by the company to save money, it was a one off accident caused by one employee."

Magistrate Sue Norton told the company: "We do regard this as being really quite serious. The pollution covered nearly 2kms and took place undetected over a period of nearly 24 hours and this concerns us."

She issued ADAS with the maximum possible fine, to be paid in 28 days.

After the hearing investigating Environment Agency officer, Claire Magee, told The Hunts Post: "I hope that today's result makes others aware that pollution like this will not be tolerated."

As a result of the incident, ADAS has reviewed producers on its site.

Speaking after the court case, ADAS business manager, Patrick Pierrepoint, told said: "The person responsible for the incident has been disciplined and action has been taken so that this can never happen again.

"This was a highly regrettable and embarrassing accident and one which will never be repeated."

ADAS was also ordered to pay the Environmental Agency costs of £3,367 and £100 court costs.

INFORMATION: ADAS is the UK's largest provider of environmental and rural solutions and policy advice. The company operates from a network of offices and research sites in England, Scotland and Wales, working on projects covering technical, economic and policy issues, with clients including Government departments and agencies.