‘Reckless’ AD firm ordered to pay £45k for polluting watercourses

A Cambridgeshire anaerobic digestion (AD) firm has been ordered to pay a total of £45,000 in fines, costs and compensation after it polluted two fenland watercourses.

Pretoria Energy Company (Arable) Limited pleaded guilty to causing the pollution incidents in Emneth Hungate, Norfolk, and at Aldreth in Cambridgeshire, at Cambridge Magistrates' Court yesterday.

The court heard that the firm, which produces feedstock for a sister company's anaerobic digestion plants, allowed silage liquor to leak from ‘ag-bags’ on two separate occasions in 2017.

Ag-bags are large bags often stored on fields, filled with agricultural feeds and once sealed should be airtight. As they are airtight and subject to direct sunlight, there is a large amount of gas and silage liquor produced in the ag-bags which needs maintenance by the owner. The court heard that this is typically done by releasing the gas to avoid the bags bursting and removing liquor to stop the polluting liquid escaping.

Following complaints from members of the public in February 2017, Environment Agency (EA) officers visited the site in Emneth and found that the bags were leaking.

They also found sewage fungus growing 300m downstream of the incident.

The company said it would remove the bags but when the officers returned to the site in March, the bags were still present and samples showed that pollution was continuing to have an impact on the watercourse.

In May 2017, EA officers were tipped off about another site at Aldreth where they discovered 14 ag-bags, each containing up to 318 tonnes of silage.Samples taken in June found the water to be "clearly harmful" to the biodiversity of the watercourse.

Regarding Emneth, Pretoria Energy said it had tried to identify drains on the site and had checked the ag-bags, but admitted to not pumping out any of the silage liquor which ended up in the watercourse.

The firm cited the extreme weather for the bursting of the ag-bags at Aldreth and said that the ground had been too hard to absorb some of the liquid.

The magistrates found that the Pretoria Energy had been “reckless” with both incidents. It was fined £12,500 for each of the two offences, ordered to pay costs of £18,450, and compensation of £2,000.

Related ENDS Compliance Content

  • Environmental Protection Act 1990 (as amended)
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    Environmental Protection Act 1990 (as amended)

    In force/
    Current
    Legislation
    England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, UK, Wales
    Published
    22 Mar 2019

    Commentary

    28/02/2013 Scottish Order (SSI 2013/74) varying Section 153 published.
    07/11/2013 Amending regulations (SSI 2013/315) published, increasing fly-tipping and littering fixed penalties for Scotland from April 2014.
    07/05/2015 Amending Order SSI 2015/188 published, substituting definition of the EU Waste Directive in relation to Scotland only., 27/05/2015 Amending Order SSI 2015/210 varying Section 153(1) (Financial assistance for environmental purposes) published.
    12/02/2016 Amending Regulations (SSI 2016/99) published, amending Section 78YB in relation to Scotland only., 14/03/2016 Amending Regulations (SI 2016/334) published., 26/10/2017 Amending Order ( WSI 2017/1024 ) published.
    12/02/2018 Amending Regulations ( SI 2018/171) published., 24/08/2018 Amending Regulations ( SI 2018/942) published.
    01/02/2019 Amending Regulations ( SSI 2019/26) published., 22/02/2019 Amending Regulations ( WSI 2019/331) published.

    Compliance Dates

    15/11/1990 Comes into force on 15/11/1990
    05/11/1990 Sections 128 to 139 come into force to the extent stated in the Environmental Act 1990 (Commencement No.1) Order 1990 (SI 1990/2226) (see Section 164) o
    05/11/1990, 13/11/1990 Sections 89(7), 89(8), 89(9), 89(11), 89(12) and 89(13) come into force (see Section 164) on 13/11/1990, 19/12/1990 Section 3 comes into force (see Section 164) on 19/12/1990
    01/01/1991 Sections 1, 2, 4 to 28, 100 to 105, and 159 come into force (see Section 164) o
    01/01/1991, Sections 79 to 85, 97, 99, 140 to 142, 145, 146, 148, 153 to 155, 157, 160, 161, 162(5) and 163 come into force (see Section 164) o
    01/01/1991, Sections 105, 162(1) and 162(2) come into force to the extent stated in Section 164(2) (see Section 164) o
    01/01/1991, Section 162(2) comes into force to the extent stated in the Environmental Protection Act (Commencement No.4) Order 1990 (SI 1990/2635) (see Section 164) o
    01/01/1991, 14/01/1991 Sections 86(2), 86(6) to (8), 86(11), 86(14), 86(15), 88(5), 88(7), 88(9)(b), 89(4), 90(1), 90(2), 90(7), 94(1), 94(2), 96(2), and 96(3) come into force (see Section 164) on 14/01/1991, 14/01/1991 Section 162(1) comes into force to the extent stated in the Environmental Protection Act (Commencement No.5) Order1991 (SI 1991/96) (see Section 164) on 14/01/1991, 13/02/1991 Sections 86(1), 86(4), 86(5), 86(9), 86(13), 87(1), 87(2), 87(3)(a) to (e), 87(4) to (6), 88(1) to (4), 88(6), 88(8), 88(9)(a), 88(9)(c) to (e) and 88(10), 98(1), 98(2), 98(5) and 98(6) come into force (see Section 164) on 13/02/1991
    01/04/1991 Sections 128, 130, 132 and 162(2) come into force to the extent stated in the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (Commencement No.6 and Appointed Day) Order 1991 (SI 1991/685) (see Section 164) o
    01/04/1991, Sections 86(3), 86(10), 87(7), 89(1)(a) to (f), 89(2), 89(3), 89(5), 89(6), 89(10), 89(14), 91(1)(a) to (f), 91(2) to (13), 92(1)(a) to (c), 92(2) to (10), 93, 94(3) to (9),

    Characteristics

    Subject

    Air General policy Hazardous substances Industrial regulation Land and development Statutory nuisance Sustainable development Transport Waste Water

    Source

    OPSI (Office of Public Sector Information)

    Affected Sectors

    Cross-sector

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