Frome rivers prosecution
Back in August 2018, the Environment Agency received reports of dead fish in tributaries of the River Frome. Officers searched the Hardington Brook and Buckland Brook and found dead fish. These included brown trout and bullhead.
The following day they returned to the scene and traced the discoloured water to a side stream. It was flowing from the direction of Manor Farm. Here they found a non-permitted discharge from the farm’s surface water drainage system. The discharge was heavily discoloured. Samples taken confirmed high concentrations of ammonia. The discharge would prove fatal to fish because of its concentration and a very high biological oxygen demand which limited the oxygen supply to the fish in Hardington Brook.
Manor Farm is owned by the Radstock Cooperative Society. However it is operated on their behalf by Velcourt Ltd, of Orchard House, Phocle Green Business Park, Ross-on-Wye.
The farm manager stopped the discharge and emptied the ditch. However a follow up inspection by EA Officers on 14 September 2018 found pollutants still in the ditch. The inspection concluded the farm’s dirty drainage system still posed a ‘high potential pollution risk.’ Essentially this was the result of insufficient storage capacity. Consequently, farm run-off was able to enter the surface water ditch and then the watercourse.
As a result of the incident, the EA claim that hundreds of fish have died.
However the legal process rumbles on rather slowly. Four years later, yesterday, 4 April, Magistrates ordered the company to pay £34,000. The company, Velcourt, pleaded guilty at North Somerset Magistrates Court.
Meanwhile Radstock Cooperative Society had accepted an Enforcement Undertaking (EU) back in 2020. An Enforcement Undertaking is a Civil Sanction available to the Environment Agency. It is an alternative sanction to prosecution or monetary penalty for dealing with certain environmental offences.
This was in relation to their responsibilities in this case. The Society, made a payment of £10,000 to the environmental charity Westcountry River Trust.
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