Somerset Cheesemaker fined

Alvis Brothers Ltd has been ordered to pay fines and costs of over £23,700 for causing pollution from their farm. The company which makes Lye Cross Farm cheeses, has been ordered to pay fines of £20,000 and costs of over £3,700. This was the third case where their farm had caused pollution. The prosecution was brought by the Environment Agency.

Appearing before Bristol magistrates the company admitted a charge of causing discharge of poisonous, noxious or polluting matter. The company had committed similar offences in 2013 and 2019. 

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

The court heard that in September 2020, Environment Agency officers went to a tributary of the Congresbury Yeo. They were following up following reports of white discolouration in the watercourse downstream of Lye Cross Farm. The water was milky both in colour and odour.

The source of the pollution was found to have been caused by a blockage in a pipe. The pipe took wash water from their cheese production facility to their onsite treatment works. This had subsequently overflowed to the watercourse. The blockage had consisted of a plastic bag containing gloves and other plastic.

The Environment Agency maintained that the materials that caused the blockage were everyday items clearly inappropriately disposed of. There appeared to be no intent to notify the blockage to the drainage system or the spill to the Environment Agency. Even though the pollution was clearly visible it was not reported.

Speaking after the judgement, the Environment Agency’s Jo Masters said: “This is the third time Alvis Brothers Limited 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 and offenders aren’t willing to change their practices to ensure environmental protection. Incidents can be reported to our incident hotline 24/7, 365 days a year on 0800 80 70 60.”

In a statement issued today the company said: “The Company offers its sincere apologies to the Environment Agency and those members of the public who have been affected. Its apologies have also been expressed to the Court. The offence in question arose as the consequence of a blocked drain backing up and escaping through a damaged manhole eight feet below ground level before finding its way underground into a storm water drain. The Company has undertaken a significant amount of work to rectify and replace older drains to which the prosecution relates. We are proud to be a significant employer in Somerset and are committed to being a responsible corporate citizen in the region.”

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