Cheesemaker Alvis Brothers fined £20,000 after third pollution incident

The court heard that Alvis Brothers had made similar offences in 2013 and 2019 (Photo: Environment Agency)
The court heard that Alvis Brothers had made similar offences in 2013 and 2019 (Photo: Environment Agency)

Somerset cheesemakers Alvis Brothers Ltd, who make Lye Cross Farm cheeses, has been ordered to pay out nearly £24,000 after a third polluting incident from their farm.

The company, of Lye Cross Farm, near Bristol, admitted a charge of causing discharge of poisonous, noxious or polluting matter.

Bristol magistrates heard that the cheesemaker had made similar offences in 2013 and 2019.

Alvis Brothers supply a number of large supermarket chains, including Waitrose, Ocado and Asda, and export to more than 40 countries.

The cheesemaker was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay costs totalling £3,520, and a victim surcharge of £190. The case was brought by the Environment Agency.

District Judge Matthews said that this was another case of the company failing to self-report a pollution incident to the Environment Agency because “they hope to get away with pollution incidents.”

She ordered the Farm Operations Director, Nick Green, to tell the court under oath how many times they had self-reported a pollution incident, to which he replied “zero.”

Following reports of white discolouration in a watercourse in September 2020, Environment Agency officers went to a tributary of the Congresbury Yeo, downstream of Lye Cross Farm.

They found the watercourse was milky both in colour and odour, Bristol magistrates heard on Friday 10 November.

The pollution's source was caused by a blockage in a pipe that took wash water from their cheese production facility to their onsite treatment works which had subsequently overflowed to the watercourse.

Mr Green, on behalf of the firm, admitted the offence and said the company was sorry and pointed out the measures taken after they became aware of the pollution spill to mitigate the effect on the watercourse.

The Environment Agency maintained in court that the materials that caused the blockage were everyday items clearly inappropriately disposed of.

There appeared to be no form of alarm to notify of the blockage to the drainage system or of a spill, it said, and while the pollution was clearly visible it was not reported to the agency.

The judge said that in view of the company’s history of offending, she was not surprised that their offer to the agency of paying an Environmental Undertaking sum – an alternative penalty to a criminal conviction – was rejected.

Environment Agency senior officer, Jo Masters said: "This is the third time Alvis Brothers Ltd has been prosecuted since 2015 for polluting the watercourse.

"We strive to work with farmers to prevent pollution through advice and guidance, but we are clear we will take action where offending is repeated."