Animal feed firm fined £18k over sewer breach which damaged treatment works

High Peak Magistrates' Court
High Peak Magistrates' Court

A High Peak animal feed business has been fined £18,000 for discharging polluting waste into the public sewer and causing damage to a treatment works.

J.E Morten Limited, of Whaley Bridge, was prosecuted by United Utilities Water PLC (United Utilities) following a series of inspections at the firm’s base on Manchester Road, Tunstead Milton.

The firm pleaded guilty to five breaches of the Water Industry Act 1991 between April 14 and July 2, 2015. They were also ordered to pay £15,000 towards the cost of the prosecution.

Speaking after the case, United Utilities Wastewater Area Business Manager, Keith Haslett, said there was a clear link between the illegal discharges and the impact on our treatment works.

“We are society’s last line of defence for the environment, and uncontrolled discharges to our sewers can affect the delicate biological organisms which are an essential part of our treatment process,” he explained.

“In this instance it caused problems which were costly, disruptive for our customers and also bad for the environment.”

Magistrates heard how, during the period between April 14 and July 2, 2015, Whaley Bridge wastewater treatment works received effluent of exceptionally high strength, with a chemical oxygen demand far in excess of the consented limit agreed with the business.

United Utilities, which runs the treatment works, incurred considerable cost and effort to keep the works running in line with the standards required by the Environment Agency.

This included converting a tank onsite to provide additional treatment for the waste.

Despite these efforts, the quality of the treated wastewater was reduced and there was an increase in odour which affected local residents, it was said.

J.E Morten Limited was found to be discharging trade effluent to the public sewer which was likely to prejudicially affect the treatment of the contents of the sewer.

The firm accepted that further spillages took place in the period of the offences brought before the court and also accepted that three of the spillages detailed in the charges contributed to the high polluting load at the wastewater treatment works.

The court also heard that J.E. Morten Limited had previous convictions for breaches of their trade effluent consent.

In mitigation, counsel acting on behalf of the business said that his clients had taken steps and invested substantial amounts in seeking to remedy the problems which led to the offences, and that there had been little or no financial gain to the business.