Meat supplier fined for trade effluent breaches

A case brought by Thames Water has led to a large fine for the Chitty Food Group, which breached trade effluent consent limits at its Guildford abattoir.

Meat supplier Chitty Food Group Ltd faced a £33,000 bill for breaching trade effluent limits at its Surrey abattoir. The case was brought by Thames Water.

The firm pleaded guilty on 13 August before Guildford magistrates to ten counts of breaching section 121(5) of the Water Industry Act 1991 between July 2007 and April 2008. The court ordered it to pay £2,500 for each offence. It also admitted to failing to install and maintain an effluent meter, contrary to sections 121(2)(g) and 121(5) of the Act, for which it was fined £2,680. Costs and investigation fees totalled £5,626.

Tests on the effluent found that ammonia concentrations were nine times the permitted level. Levels of settleable solids were almost six times their limit, while fat and grease concentrations were seven times greater. The biochemical oxygen demand of the effluent was also 24% higher than it should have been.

After the case, Thames’ trade effluent manager Tony McHatttie said: "We take breaches like this very seriously. They put our sewage treatment works under incredible strain and could result in environmental damage."

Thames prosecuted Chitty for similar offences two years ago. The fine was £2,100.

According to the company’s website, the abattoir’s energy efficiency and renewable energy use make it "one of the most environmentally friendly meat-processing plants in the country".

Companies in the food and animal feed sectors are regularly fined for breaking trade effluent limits.

Cumbrian Seafoods paid more than £26,000 in April after a Northumbrian Water prosecution (ENDS Report 412, p 44 ), while United Fish Industries was fined £25,000 in July 2007 for exceeding limits at its Aberdeen works (ENDS Report 390, p 56 ).

Meat processor Tulip (ENDS Report 385, p 59 ) and readymeal maker Noon Products (ENDS Report 397, p 60 ) were prosecuted for excessive fat discharges in 2007 and 2008, respectively. The offences cost each company £50,000 in fines and costs.