Three landspreading firms pay up for waste and water offences

Three waste spreading companies, N-Virocycle, Marland Agricultural Services and Trade Effluent Services, have appeared in court in recent weeks charged with water pollution and waste offences.

The most environmentally damaging offences were committed in July 2006 by N-Virocycle, based in Dursley, Gloucestershire. Waste from the Interbrew brewery at Samlesbury was being spread on land at Langho in Lancashire.

In two separate incidents, the waste entered land drains, ditches and then tributaries of the rivers Calder and Ribble. Thousands of fish died along several miles of the Bushburn and Park brooks.

Appearing before Hyndburn and Accrington magistrates on 29 March, N-Virocycle pleaded guilty to two charges of causing polluting matter to enter controlled waters, contrary to sections 85(1) and (6) of the Water Resources Act 1991.

Prosecuting for the Environment Agency, solicitor Jane Morgan said it was not possible to say exactly how many fish had been killed because the incident sparked a feeding frenzy among herons and gulls. Brown trout, eels and various small fish had been wiped out.

The Agency said the company had spread waste on land that was not part of its registered area and had not been checked for field drains.

N-Virocycle was fined £4,000 for the first offence and £5,500 for the second. It was also ordered to pay £4,830 in costs.

  • Marland Agricultural Services appeared before Market Drayton magistrates on 2 April to plead guilty to three charges related to the spreading of excessive amounts of sludge from the dairy industry.

    The Agency told the court the company regularly spread waste on land belonging to two farms in Child’s Ercall, Shropshire. Inspections in January 2006 showed the land was saturated with water and sludge, the soil was compacted and much of the surface looked like wet porridge.

    Marland was warned by letter to reduce the sludge spreading, but inspections in February found the situation had not improved. Samples taken by the Agency showed the waste was typical of food industry sludges.

    A company representative was interviewed under caution in March and admitted that waste had been spread virtually every day between 10 November 2005 and 10 January 2006.

    Marland was charged with two counts of disposing of controlled waste without a waste licence, contrary to sections 33(1)(b) and (6) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, and one count of disposing of controlled waste in a manner likely to cause pollution, contrary to sections 33(1)(c) and (6).

    The company was fined a total of £6,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,600.

    Speaking after the case, Agency officer Kevin Heede said: "Approximately a million gallons of sludge had been landspread in excess of the recommended spreading rate. There is simply no excuse for ignoring rules like this."

  • Wrexham-based Trade Effluent Services Ltd appeared before Mold magistrates on 21 March to plead guilty to two charges under the 1990 Act.

    The court heard that in late November and December last year, the company spread food and dairy sludges on land without a waste licence or exemption, contrary to section 33(1)(a).

    The Agency also found many transfer notes provided by the company did not contain the required information. The company was charged with failing to provide a written description of the waste, contrary to section 34(1)(c).

    The company was fined £7,500 for the first offence and £1,000 for the second. It was also ordered to pay costs of £1,600.