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Company given £45k court bill for Emneth Hungate waterway pollution

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A company which admitted polluting a West Norfolk waterway has been ordered to pay more than £45,000 in fines and costs.

Officials say they are "satisfied" with the penalty handed to Pretoria Energy Company (Arable) Limited at a court hearing in Cambridge today.

The company, which is based in Ely, admitted causing pollution incidents at Little Racy Drain, a tributary of the Forty Foot Drain, at Emneth Hungate, and the New Cut Drain (West) at Aldreth, Cambridgeshire.

The crest above the entrance to King's Lynn Court in College Lane. (8155882)
The crest above the entrance to King's Lynn Court in College Lane. (8155882)

The damage was caused by silage liquor leaking from ag-bags, each thought to contain several hundred tonnes of material, making its way into the watercourses.

The court heard that on February 7, 2017, the Environment Agency was contacted by a member of the public who reported pollution from ag-bags on land in Emneth.

Sewage fungus was found growing 300 metres downstream when an officer attended the following day.

A stretch of the waterway at Emneth Hungate which was polluted (14972356)
A stretch of the waterway at Emneth Hungate which was polluted (14972356)

Although a company representative said he would get the bags removed, the agency found they were still there on a return visit in late March. Several had still not been removed almost six months after the initial report.

Fungus and pollution of the water was also found near land where 14 similar bags were discovered at Aldreth in May 2017.

When interviewed, the court heard the company said it had tried to identify drains on the site and had checked the ag-bags.

But it admitted it had failed to pump out any of the silage liquor which ended up in the watercourse.

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

The court was told that another company in the group has previous convictions for two similar offences dating back to 2014.

Magistrates said the company was reckless with respect to both incidents.

The company was fined £12,500 for each of the two offences, ordered to pay costs of £18,478.50, compensation of £2,000 and a victim surcharge of £170.

After the sentencing, Environment Officer at the Environment Agency, Joe Vervaeke, said: “We are satisfied with the sentence handed out today and hope it acts as a deterrent to others.

“The silage liquor which leaked from the ag-bags into the watercourses would have had a detrimental effect on the environment so it is only right that the company responsible should be held to account.”

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