Farm businesses fined £28,000 after major water pollution

The incident killed a number of fish and impacted on groundwater
The incident killed a number of fish and impacted on groundwater

Two farming businesses have been ordered to pay out £28,000 after pollution killed 35 fish and caused a significant impact on the local groundwater.

Sutton Grange AD Ltd and Sutton Grange Services Ltd, both based in Nottinghamshire, polluted a pond through the discharge of maize silage effluent from their farms.

In a case heard at Mansfield Magistrates Court on Friday 10 May, the businesses, based near Retford, pleaded guilty to three charges of breaching environmental regulations.

The excessive amount of maize stored coupled with the manner in which it was kept caused a runoff of highly polluting maize silage effluent, according to the Environment Agency, which prosecuted the two companies.

There was also a failure to comply with the silage, slurry and agricultural fuel oil regulations on the part of Sutton Grange Services Ltd in relation to a second pile of maize.

The pollution incidents occurred in October and November 2015, all arising from a maize storage/clamping operation at an anaerobic digestion plant at Sutton Grange farm.

Sutton Grange AD Ltd were fined £6,000 and Sutton Grange Services Ltd were fined a total of £2,800. Each company was ordered to pay costs of £10,000, as well as a victim surcharge of £170.

The court heard how Sutton Grange AD Ltd, which holds an environmental permit for the operation of its anaerobic digestion activities, failed to ensure that proper systems were in place to ensure that only uncontaminated surface water was discharged into the ponds.

The company stored a significant amount of maize on a purpose built clamp which was built on top of a manhole linked to a stone outfall at Bluebell pond. Sutton Grange Services had been contracted to carry out clamping operations.

Following an earlier report from a member of the public about a possible fish kill at the lake behind Sutton Grange Farm on 19 October 2015, on 24 October 2015 officers received a further notification of a pollution incident at the same pond.

The officers attended and found dissolved oxygen levels in the pond were extremely low. They also found the maize clamp was blocked and contained yellow liquid. The liquid was flowing downwards across the farmyard.

Further inspections of the site showed silage effluent had escaped the shallow perimeter drain surrounding the maize mound and was leaking into the manhole which discharges to the stone outfall in Bluebell pond, resulting in the fish kill and significant impact on groundwater quality.

In mitigation, the court heard that both companies had taken a number of steps to improve operations at the site to ensure that no further incidents such as this would happen again.

Neither company had any previous convictions and were given credit for their early guilty pleas.