Compensation for fishing clubs after pollution of river
Last updated at 20:55, Thursday, 01 September 2011
Three Cumbrian fishing clubs have been given undisclosed compensation after chemicals leaked into the River Ellen near Maryport, killing thousands of fish.
Aspatria Creamery owner First Milk was fined £12,000 after the seepage in 2008, but had denied civil liability for damage caused to the angling clubs’ polluted fisheries.
The claim was expected to go to trial, but was settled on August 19 after what solicitors described as “protracted negotiations” led to a “very substantial” pay-out.
They criticised what they said was a poor investigation by the Environment Agency, which they said had contributed to the length of time taken to settle.
The case followed an incident in June 2008 when large numbers of dead fish were spotted in the river at Bullgill, near Maryport.
Environment Agency officers discovered a white substance which they tracked to a tributary of the River Ellen near Aspatria railway station.
The source was then traced to a drain at the creamery, which ran into a culvert, linking to the tributary.
Tests found that the chemical was a thickening agent used in the factory’s effluent treatment works, which had leaked from a bulk container.
A fisheries officer recovered 230 dead adult fish, including salmon, sea trout and brown trout but Carlisle magistrates heard in 2009 how the fish killed would have amounted to “several thousand”.
The creamery’s owner, based in Wales, pleaded guilty to causing polluting material to enter controlled waters on or before June 29 2008 but denied civil liability.
They paid “very substantial” compensation to the three clubs, said a spokesman for Fish Legal, which is the legal arm of the Angling Trust which pursued the claim.
Details of the angling clubs involved were not released, nor was the amount of compensation.
The spokesman said they were bound by confidentiality issues.
He said it was up to the clubs concerned to decide what to spend the money on but they were very keen to restock the river.
The court case in 2009 heard that it could take up to five years for fish stocks to recover in the three-mile stretch of river affected.
William Rundle, the solicitor who led the civil case, said it had been a long running and difficult process because of a poor investigation by the Environment Agency which failed to assess the full impact of the pollution.
He added: “Nevertheless, we have persevered and I am pleased that Fish Legal was able to agree a very substantial settlement for its member clubs. Now that compensation has finally been paid over they can look to restoring the river that was so badly affected.”
First Milk said it had been given incorrect drainage plans for the creamery when it was bought from the previous owner in 2006.
A company spokesman said: “Since then we have reviewed procedures and tightened everything up so there are no repeats.”
Jeremy Westgarth, Environment Agency manager for Cumbria, said: “Our officers responded quickly to try and prevent any further harm to the environment and collect evidence for any resulting prosecution.
“This was a complex investigation using significant resources which resulted in a successful prosecution and substantial infrastructure improvements at the company to prevent future problems.”
First published at 19:22, Thursday, 01 September 2011
Published by http://www.timesandstar.co.uk
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