Cambridge University fined for twice polluting river tributaries

University of Cambridge was fined for polluting tributaries of the River Great Ouse.

University of Cambridge was fined for polluting tributaries of the River Great Ouse. - Credit: Archant

CAMBRIDGE University was fined £28,000 and ordered to pay £7,363 costs after tributaries of the River Great Ouse were polluted twice last year.

On the first occasion on May 10 slurry from Park Farm, Church Lane, Madingley, which is owned and operated by the university, had been spread on a field and then entered the tributary via an ‘unknown’ drainage pipe.

A similar incident happened on June 10 – again slurry had been spread on a field. Overnight rain waterlogged the field causing the slurry to discharge again via ‘unknown’ drainage pipes into ditches connected to tributaries of the River Great Ouse.

At Cambridge Magistrates’ Court on Thursday (May 30), the university pleaded guilty to two offences of causing pollution – it was fined £12,000 for the first incident and £16,000 for the second.

Claire Corfield, prosecuting for the Environment Agency, said: “This was not an isolated lapse. Following the first incident the defendant failed to take appropriate measures such as tankering to prevent a second pollution incident. The causes of both incidents were the same.”


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The university expressed deep regret for the incidents and entered early guilty pleas.

Christopher Hopkins, on behalf of the university, said that following the incidents the university has spent in excess of £4,500 on a new flow meter and on a remote emergency engine stop for the spreading system.

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They have also spent in excess of £70,000 on slurry tankering. Both incidents followed misjudgments regarding expected rainfall and soil moisture levels.

Last year, Cambridgeshire received double the amount of usual annual rainfall.

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