An anaerobic digestion (AD) company has been ordered to pay 20,000 after its plant polluted 3km of watercourses.
Luton Magistrates’ Court fined Trinity Hall Biogas £10,000 and ordered it to pay £10,500 Environment Agency (EA) costs on 15 June after it pleaded guilty to four offences.
The court heard that overflows from the Bedfordshire plant in December 2013 and April 2014 “chronically affected” water quality in the stream from the farm near Hockliffe to the Ouzel Brook.
Scott and Scott was the day-to-day operator of the AD plant and was responsible for emptying the tank only if there was an agreement with the company for it to do so. There were no such agreements at the time of the offences.
Warren Scott, controlling partner of Scott and Scott, accepted a caution at a previous hearing.
Wendy Foster, prosecuting for the agency, said Scott had reported an overflow of effluent from a storage container at the farm between Hockliffe and Dunstable. It had flowed into a nearby ditch which eventually ran into the Ouzel.
The storage container held liquid which had leached from a maize heap stored as bio-fuel for the AD plant, according to the EA. The tank had not been checked and overflowed.
Foster said bags of wrapped bio-fuel, owned by the company, were stored on a field in rows, the ends of which were within 10m of the ditch where the effluent had been found, breaching sileage regulations.
She said samples of bacterial growth taken from the watercourse indicated ongoing chronic pollution, with levels of ammonia 10 times higher than normally found in similar watercourses.
Foster said: “The offences arose out of negligence of the defendant company. The repeated incidents of pollution and failures to comply with regulations are indicative of inadequate systems and monitoring rather than an isolated incident.”
After the hearing, EA officer Kat Wynn said: “Given that the tank was close to nearby ditches, it was reasonably foreseeable that any overflow would cause pollution.
“Operators of businesses that store polluting effluents should have rigorous procedures in place to minimise the risk of an overflow or leak occurring.”
The district judge said self-reporting the incident was a “substantial mitigating factor”, according to the EA.
In an unrelated case, an AD operator and site owner in Devon have been fined more than £10,000 and ordered to pay £7,019 costs for polluting 2.5km of the river Dalch.
Site operator Greener For Life Energy and site owner and permit holder Nomansland Biogas both pleaded guilty at Exeter Magistrates’ Court on 23 June to negligently polluting the watercourse last year and contravening the requirements of an environmental permit.