Appearing before Kendal magistrates on 6 May, David Murray Brockbank and Kentside Developments pleaded guilty to causing polluting matter to enter the river Kent, contrary to section 85(1) of the Water Resources Act 1991. They were also ordered to pay costs totalling £525.
On 4 December, Kentside Developments was renewing a culvert which runs under the yard of a property belonging to Mr Brockbank and discharges into the Kent. The river is designated an SAC because it supports a population of white-clawed crayfish.
Environment Agency officers on duty in the area came across the site and saw that water was seeping into the hole dug to repair the culvert. A pump had been installed to stop the hole flooding.
The officers told the builders not to turn on the pump as it would empty silty water into the river via the culvert. However, the instructions were ignored.
The officers tried to talk to Mr Brockbank, but were told he was busy. When he eventually came to talk to them, he lied about the pump being turned on manually - saying it had been activated by a float switch - even though the pump was a diesel pump that would not start automatically. The builders also refused to identify the company carrying out the work until interviewed under caution.
Mr Brockbank later said he thought it was acceptable to use the pump because the silt would settle out of the water in the culvert due to its shallow gradient. However, samples from the river showed that the incident discharged high levels of suspended solids into the river.