Sludge disposal firm fined £54,000 for polluting three rivers

Agresol - a Welsh firm specialising in spreading wastes on farmland - has been fined £54,000 after polluting three rivers in less than a year.

The Carmarthen-based firm disposes of water treatment sludges and various biowastes. Its clients include Welsh Water, United Utilities and Kelda Water.

On 21 July 2005, Environment Agency officers were called to a tributary of the Afon Llan near Swansea which was reported to be heavily polluted.

The source was traced to nearby Penplas Farm where Agresol was due to spread water treatment sludge from Welsh Water’s Felindre works. A waste licence is not required if the waste is considered to be of agricultural benefit.

The material had been stored poorly and escaped into the river before it could be spread, Hamish Osborn of the Agency told ENDS.

The company polluted the Afon Lash at Llandybie in a similar manner on 12 February 2006 with waste from the same water works. It repeated the offence on 22 June.

The Agency said the incidents killed aquatic life and coated the river bed in iron-rich sediment likely to prevent fish from spawning.

Before Ammanford magistrates on 6 October, the company pleaded guilty to six charges: three of causing polluting matter to enter controlled waters, contrary to section 85(1) of the Water Resources Act 1991, and three of depositing controlled waste on land in a manner not authorised by a waste management licence, contrary to section 33(1) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. It was fined £54,000 in total with £2,500 costs.

The Agency said it had prosecuted Agresol under both waste management and water pollution legislation because of the incidents’ severity. It also prosecuted the company’s directors for the last incident because they had not learnt from past failings.

Andrew Ebsworth and Peter Everall pleaded guilty to two charges - one each under the Water Resources and Environmental Protection Acts - and were fined £3,000 each.

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