Firm fined for river effluent spill

A FIRM which allowed noxious effluent to pour into the River Gipping, killing an estimated 5,000 fish, has been fined more than £13,000.

A FIRM which allowed noxious effluent to pour into the River Gipping, killing an estimated 5,000 fish, has been fined more than £13,000.

Magistrates heard yesterday how there was a scene of devastation along the river at Stowmarket following the “major incident” last July.

Residents in the town were first to raise the alarm after they noticed the stench of sewage and dead fish.

Yesterday Stowmarket-based Muntons Plc admitted accidentally dumping industrial organic waste into the river.

Magistrates at Bury St Edmunds ordered the malting firm to pay £13,333, reduced from £20,000 taking into account its prompt guilty plea.

Miriam Tordoff , prosecuting, told the court thousands of fish were killed along a two kilometre stretch down river from the maltings.

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She said an employee at the firm told investigators he had noticed there was problem with oxygen levels in their treatment plant at about 4pm on July 26 last year.

Ms Tordoff described how the worker then left to allow time for a first tank to empty into a second tank, which was too small to contain the waste.

She said that in the time between 4pm and the worker's return at 7pm, 80 cubic metres of the grey watery sludge had overflowed into the Gipping.

She also said Muntons had a previous conviction for leaking diesel into the Gipping in 2002.

“It was a major incident which could have been prevented,” she said. “There should have been better procedures for emergency maintenance and the employee wasn't fully aware of the consequences of his actions.”

Laura Thomas, for Muntons, said the company had taken the incident “extremely seriously” and made full admissions.

Miss Thomas said the firm had spent £750,000 a year since 2005 investing in measures to protect the environment and had spent £64,000 cleaning up the river and improving its processing plant after the July spill.

Speaking after the verdict, Dr Nigel Davies, manufacturing and technical director with Muntons, issued an apology to their neighbours along the river.

He said: “Our managing director fishes in the river and a lot of our employees live locally so the river is an area we have a personal interest in protecting.”

In addition to the fine Muntons was also ordered to pay £6,145 prosecution costs.

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