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Evesham firm fined £50,000 after pollution from rotten mushrooms turns brook black and kills frogs

Joshua Godfrey 1st Feb, 2017 Updated: 1st Feb, 2017

AN EVESHAM food processing company has been fined £50,000 after pleading guilty to polluting a nearby brook which killed a number of frogs.

Walsh Mushrooms, based on Vale Park, admitted polluting Battleton Brook with the effluent of rotting mushrooms during a hearing at Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday (January 31).

As well as the fine, the company was ordered to pay costs of £8,888.16 along with a £170 victim surcharge.

The prosecution was brought by the Environment Agency following reports of pollution in the brook in April and May of 2015.

The firm was then charged with breaking Environmental Permitting Regulations.

The court heard how on April 24, 2015, an Environment Agency officer visited the brook after a report it had turned black with a foul odour.

He found the brook heavily polluted with organic matter, resulting in low levels of oxygen in the brook.

This then led to a number of frogs and invertebrates downstream of Vale Park dying as a result of the pollution.

Officers, along with staff from Severn Trent Water Limited identified the source of the pollution as a skip full of decomposing mushrooms on the Walsh Mushroom site, which was leaking into a surface water drain.

Investigations of the drainage system found this had been ongoing for a number of days.

Walsh Mushrooms were urged to remove the skip, undertake a cleaning operation, and conduct a full inspection of the site drainage system.

The Environment Agency stated that the company had failed to carry out the site drainage survey within a reasonable time after April 24 2015.

As a result, on May 14 2015, officers attended the premises of the firm again to examine the site drainage system and found similar effluent was continuing to flow into it.

A company representative was interviewed and accepted that no training had been given to staff in regards to the maintenance of the site drainage.

No training had also been given regarding pollution risks associated with storing waste on the site.

In court, the company, which had no previous convictions, expressed remorse for the incident.

The firm acknowledged its failure to carry out environmental risk assessments or give appropriate training to company staff.

Walsh Mushrooms has since taken steps to address the issues found.

These include the monthly sampling of fluids from the on-site inceptor, the training of staff and the storage of waste mushrooms in leak-proof containers.

After the hearing, an Environment Agency spokesperson said: “Walsh Mushrooms failed to conduct any assessments of the risks their operations posed to the environment.

“They did not understand or maintain their drainage system and they failed to provide any training for staff on how to recognise or deal with pollution incidents.

“As a result of these failings, they caused significant damage to the brook. We will always seek to take action against those whose actions results in pollution of our rivers.”

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