Fines over Fenland water pollution

Pretoria Energy Company (Arable) Limited, a company that produces feedstock for a sister company’s anaerobic digestion plants, admitted causing pollution to watercourses in Emneth Hungate in Norfolk and Aldreth in Cambridgeshire. Both incidents were caused by silage liquor leaking from ag-bags and making its way into the watercourses. The ag-bags used by this company contained approximately 318 tonnes of silage. 

On 7 February 2017, the Environment Agency was notified of watercourse pollution in Emneth. The attending officer found pollution caused by silage liquor escaping from eight ag-bags on the site, some of which had holes allowing the liquor to escape. They also discovered sewage fungus.

A Pretoria Energy Company (Arable) Limited representative said they would arrange to remove the ag-bags. However, when the officer returned to the site on 29 March 2017, all eight were still present and samples showed continued watercourse pollution. There was a further complaint in relation to odour, and on 19 July 2017, when the local council investigated, there were still five ag-bags present.

On 26 May and 30 May 2017 the Environment Agency received complaints for a site in Aldreth, Cambridgeshire. They found 14 ag-bags, eight of which had failed, but it was believed the liquor had not entered the watercourse. However, on a second visit on 1 June 2017, officers inspected the watercourse and discovered black, stagnant-smelling water and sewage fungus. Tests confirmed the water was harmful to the watercourse’s biodiversity. The pollution was traced back to the ag-bags.

The company admitted causing pollution in both cases. At the Emneth incident, it tried to identify drains on the site and checked the ag-bags, but failed to pump out any of the silage liquor which ended up in the watercourse. It blamed extreme weather as a factor for the incident at Aldreth. Magistrates said the company had been reckless and ordered it to pay £45,648.50 in fines, costs and compensation.


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