An operator of one of the UK’s largest anaerobic digestion plants has been ordered to pay £30,000 in fines and costs for polluting a Somerset stream with liquid waste.
Digestate escaped from a storage lagoon at Swang Farm, Cannington near Bridgwater at a plant owned by Cannington Enterprises in February last year.
After a member of the public reported a green slime in the stream, Environment Agency officers visited the site and found the pollution had come from the digestate storage lagoons.
A pipe had broken free while digestate was being pumped from the AD plant with around 60 tonnes of the liquid waste flowing into a trench and eventually into a stream.
The AD plant began operating in 2010 and in 2011 Cannington Enterprises applied to the Environment Agency to increase the material it handles to 100,000 tonnes per year, which was granted meaning it could take in more animal by-product and household food waste.
This meant extra digestate lagoons were required for up to 100 tonnes of digestate per day.
In a hearing at Taunton Magistrates’ Court, Cannington Enterprises was fined £25,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4,500 after pleading guilty. Its director Tim Roe was also fined £2,500 and ordered to pay £1,000 costs. Magistrates said the fines reflected the seriousness of the offence, but they recognised that the company acted quickly to contain the aftermath of the pollution.
Environment Agency officer Tim Loveday said: “Poor site management by the operators resulted in a highly polluting liquid digestate escaping from a lagoon and into a local stream. We have taken strong enforcement action and matters have improved considerably since this pollution incident, but we will continue to closely regulate the plant and take further action if necessary.”