Yesterday (Thursday 7 July 2011), at Worcester Magistrates Court, Dawn Foods Limited pleaded guilty to two charges that resulted in the pollution of the River Avon in June 2010.
Dawn Foods Limited, the manufacturers of baked goods, based in Worcestershire, were fined £23,500 and ordered to pay £7,950 in costs.
The charges were brought by the Environment Agency under Environmental Permitting (England & Wales) Regulations 2010 and Control of Pollution (Oil storage) Regulations 2001.
On 6 June 2010, Environment Agency officers attended a report of oil on the River Avon near to Sankey Marina, Evesham. Oil was present in large patches across the width of the river which was between 30 and 35 metres wide. The Environment Agency placed a pollution control boom on the river in order to collect and contain the spill. Investigations confirmed that Dawn Foods Ltd were the source of vegetable oil (rapeseed oil) entering the watercourse.
Dawn Foods Limited reported a spill of approximately 5,000 litres of rapeseed oil at their premises at Worcester Road to the Environment Agency. They indicated that a bund in place around the oil tank had not contained the leak. As a result, approximately 800 litres entered the River Avon. Upon investigation, Environment Agency officers noted that the oil had escaped from a storage tank via a flexible pipe, fixed in place with a jubilee clip, which had become detached. The use of a jubilee clip is not an industry recognised practice. The oil had leaked into company’s surface water drains and discharged into the surface sewer and ultimately into the River Avon.
Up to two miles of the River Avon was affected by the oil slick between the premises of Dawn Foods Limited and Fladbury. Two swans and a duck had to be removed and treated by Bishopswood Swan Rescue for oil contamination. The duck was so badly oiled it couldn’t fly.
A representative of Dawn Foods Ltd attended formal interview under caution on 16 July 2010. They company admitted that that the oil in the river was their vegetable oil from their storage tank.
In passing sentence, the Court took into account the fact that the company had no previous convictions, they cooperated fully with the Environment Agency, they had borne the clean up costs and had pleaded guilty at an early opportunity.
Speaking after the case, an Environment Agency spokesperson said "This incident could have been avoided if the company had properly considered the environmental risks associated with their business activities. Dawn Foods Limited had poor knowledge of their own site drainage. They did not have a plan of what to do in the event of a spillage at the site and unfortunately this resulted in the pollution incident and today’s court appearance.”
Businesses need to be aware of the potential costs to the environment, their finances and reputation should a pollution incident such as this occur. Having an Accident or Pollution Incident Management Plan detailing the actions to be taken in such circumstances, will help to minimise impact of the environment.
To help businesses avoid and deal with pollution incidents, the Environment Agency has a range of advice and guidance on their website at http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/business/topics/pollution/32252.aspx
Members of the public are asked to report pollution incidents, or sightings of dead/struggling fish in their local watercourse, to the Environment Agency’s Incident Hotline on 0800 80 70 60.