Firm gets huge fine for killing fish

A STOWMARKET firm that produces malt has been fined more than £13,000 after polluting a river and killing 5,000 fish.Untreated effluent from Munton's treatment plant discharged into the river causing the pollution which was reported to the Environment Agency by a member of the public who had smelt sewage and seen dead fish floating in the river at Badley, south-east of Stowmarket.

A STOWMARKET firm that produces malt has been fined more than £13,000 after polluting a river and killing 5,000 fish.

Untreated effluent from Munton's treatment plant discharged into the river causing the pollution which was reported to the Environment Agency by a member of the public who had smelt sewage and seen dead fish floating in the river at Badley, south-east of Stowmarket.

Bury St Edmunds Magistrates' Court heard today that more than 5,000 dead fish, including 270 pike, more than 2,000 roach and 1,150 chub of various sizes were collected in a 1.5km stretch of river between Muntons and Badley Mill and that large amounts of sewage fungus was observed in the same stretch of river.

A biology survey showed there had been acute organic pollution which had had a considerable impact on the biology in the river.

Miriam Tordoff, prosecuting for the Environment Agency, told the court that officers investigating the pollution traced it to the discharge pipe from Muntons' effluent treatment plant.

She said that Muntons have a pollution prevention and control permit which allows the company to discharge treated effluent into the river.

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But on 26 July 2007 an employee noticed a problem with the treatment plant which required one of the tanks of effluent to be drained so that maintenance could be carried out.

The effluent was to be drained to a holding lagoon via a buffer tank with a capacity of 60m3 per hour.

But when a valve at the base of the reactor tank was opened to drain it more quickly the flow into the buffer tank was exceeded by 40m3 per hour, which lead to the overflow.

Mrs Tordoff told the court that the employee left the site for two hours while the tank was draining and the estimated volume that could have been discharged to the river was 80m3. She said: “The overflow went unnoticed by the company and it could have been prevented had there been better written procedures for the carrying out of emergency maintenance.”

Since the incident Muntons has installed an alarm and shut-off valve on the buffer tank to prevent a similar incident in the future.

Environment Agency officer Frances Browne said: “This incident was totally avoidable and yet the environmental impact on the river biodiversity was both significant and serious and a great number of fish have died as a result.

“Although the company has now put systems and procedures in place to prevent such incidents happening again, this demonstrates the necessity for companies to have a strict maintenance policy.”

Alan Ridealgh, managing director at Muntons, said systems had been put in place to ensure a similar incident does not happen again.

He said: “We deeply regret the incident.

“It is the first one we have ever had.”

Muntons Plc of Cedars Maltings, Stowmarket, Suffolk pleaded guilty to causing poisonous, noxious or polluting matter to enter controlled waters

The firm was fined £13,334 and ordered to pay full Environment Agency costs of £6,145.

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