Anaerobic digestion firm BiogenGreenfinch has been fined £5,000 after pleading guilty to polluting a Bedfordshire stream.
A statement from the Environment Agency said the pollution happened when a pump was left on overnight at the company’s Clapham Biogas Plant on 19 November 2010, causing a large quantity of digestate to overflow into a field and the stream.
The tank had no alarm system and had to be turned off manually.
Miriam Tordoff, prosecuting, said the company knew it needed an alarm on an underground tank following a similar incident two months earlier at a site near Rushden.
She said by the time the EA had been told of the pollution, an investigating officer had trouble assessing the effects.
The EA said the pollution was avoidable and it should have been notified sooner so that the incident could have been better managed.
After the hearing, senior environment officer Charan Sekhon said: ‘’It was an avoidable accident that resulted from failure to comply with their environmental permit. This case sends a clear message to biogas plant operators that they must ensure that they have a robust infrastructure and pollution prevention measures in place.”
A spokeswoman from BiogenGreenfinch said: “The company regrets the incident and lessons have been learned and procedures changed as a direct result of what happened. It is encouraging to note that the court acknowledged that ‘Biogen, as a reputable company, was diligent in responding to and containing the spill and handled the clean-up in a responsible way’.
“The ditch which was affected is dry for most of the year and it was made clear from the EA investigation that no flora or fauna were adversely affected as a result of this inadvertent spillage.
“This the first time BiogenGreenfinch has ever been prosecuted for any such offence and we hope very much it may also be the last. We take our environmental responsibilities very seriously and we are comforted to see that the fine imposed was very much at the lower end of the scale available to the magistrates, reflecting their assessment of the seriousness of the incident and our reaction to it. As industry leaders we will continue to work closely with the EA.”