On Wednesday 14 November, Eddie Stobart Group Limited pleaded guilty at Mansfield Magistrates’ Court to one charge of causing a water discharge, namely ammonia, into the Cuttail Brook.
The company were fined £30,000, ordered to pay £4040.29 in costs, along with a £15 victim surcharge.
The charge was brought by the Environment Agency under the Environmental Permitting Regulations (England and Wales) 2010.
Eddie Stobart Group Limited occupy premises at the Sherwood Business Park at Annesley, Nottinghamshire.
Following a report of pollution on 1 August 2011, an Environment Agency officer attended the Sherwood Business Park to inspect several ponds and the Cuttail Brook which run through the business park. The officer observed a large number of dead fish around the margins of one of the ponds. When he checked the inlet valve to the pond he found a steady flow of clean water and there was also a strong smell of ammonia. Ammonia is very soluble in water and is toxic to fish.
A number of samples were taken from the pond where the dead fish were found. Analysis of these samples found that the levels of ammonia in the water were much higher than normal. Officers then checked the surface water drainage system serving the business park to locate the source of the ammonia. Upon lifting a manhole cover outside the site, a strong smell of odour was detected. Ammonia was smelt again when a manhole cover on the surface water drainage system in Willow Drive, near Eddie Stobart’s premises, was lifted.
Eddie Stobart’s premises were inspected by Environment Agency officers as they were known to use ammonia in their refrigeration system. It was established that there had been a problem with the refrigeration system on the site resulting in a loss of compressor oil.
All of the other companies on the business park which drain surface water into the pond were visited and none were found to have lost any ammonia.
An intensive clean up operation was undertaken shortly after by the Environment Agency, Severn Trent Water Limited and contractors appointed by Eddie Stobart.
Speaking after the case, an Environment Agency officer in charge of the investigation said, “This pollution resulted in the death of over 1,000 fish in an area which is popular with anglers and also near to a Site of Special Scientific Interest. We take cases of pollution to watercourses very seriously due to the environmental damage that can be caused. In this case we considered all the relevant factors and decided that a prosecution would be an appropriate course of action on this occasion.”
In mitigation a solicitor representing Eddie Stobart Group Limited told the court that the pollution that occurred was not a deliberate act and the refrigeration system that caused the pollution was well maintained by an expert and authorised contractor. The company has now put a new system in place so that the incident could never happen again. They went on to say that the company takes it environmental responsibilities seriously and they admitted responsibility at the earliest opportunity.
The cost of restoration has been met by the company and all parties who carried out the cleanup have been compensated.