Dairy Crest fined £1.5m for string of 'unacceptable' environmental breaches

A dairy which produces a host of household products has been fined £ 1.5m after a string of pollution incidents. Dairy Crest Limited’s “unacceptable” environmental performance has seen harmful chemicals released into waterways, being responsible for foul odors and leaking part-treated effluent into watercourses.

And when it did get things wrong it failed to tell the Environment Agency within 24 hours of the incident on seven separate occasions. On Thursday the firm appeared at Truro Crown Court for sentencing after previously admitting 12 out of 27 charges brought by the Environment Agency.

It was given a record fine of £ 1.52m at the hearing. It had already agreed to pay costs of £ 272,747.

The court was told Dairy Crest Limited, owned by Saputo Dairy UK, and its management of the Davidstow Creamery near Camelford, north Cornwall, had been falling short of the standards expected by the Environment Agency over its management of liquid waste, odor and environmental reporting .

The court was told that since the site changed production to focus on whey processing, particularly to produce powder used in baby milk and other products, the effluent being discharged into the River Inny has been more challenging to treat. This has resulted in unacceptable pollution of the local river, which is a tributary of the River Tamar, causing significant harm to fish and other aquatic wildlife. Another issue has been foul odors which have often affected the lives of local residents.

Delivering the sentence, HHJ Simon Carr expressed the view that he had not seen consistent performance evidenced by the company over a five-year period. The judge identified a poor, middle management culture as a contributing factor to the environmental harm caused that should have been dealt with by senior management much sooner.

He said it felt like there was never a time without a problem and some of those responsible for the wastewater treatment plant felt bullied and unable to come forward. Judge Carr added he had been ‘moved’ when reading testimony from residents whose lives had been ‘blighted’ by odours.

The offenses included:

  • Releasing a harmful biocide, used to clean the wastewater tanks and pipework, into the river and killing thousands of fish over a 2 kilometer stretch on 16 August 2016.
  • Coating the Inny River with a noxious, black sludge for 5 kilometers in 2018, through a release of a mass of suspended solids in July and August 2018.
  • Consistently exceeding limits on substances like phosphorus and suspended solids entering the River Inny, from 2016 up to 2021.
  • Numerous leaks of part-treated effluent into nearby watercourses and onto the land.
  • Foul odors repeatedly affecting residents over many years.
  • Failing to tell the Environment Agency within 24 hours of when things had gone significantly wrong on site, on 7 separate occasions.

Helen Dobby, Area Director of the Environment Agency, said: “As a large and well-established operator, Dairy Crest Limited should be up to the task of maintaining the required environmental standards. Instead, it has over a period of many years failed to comply with its environmental permit and has not been able to protect local people and the environment.

“We acknowledge that Dairy Crest Limited has been taking steps to remedy the various problems, but unfortunately, these actions were not swift enough on many occasions and proved to be ineffective in stopping pollution.

“The Environment Agency remains deeply concerned about the environmental performance of this site and its impact on the environment. It will continue to monitor the situation and regulate this site closely and urges the operator to make the right decisions and level of investment on site to better. protect the wildlife and people of Cornwall. “

Dairy Crest today apologized in a statement: It said: “Following the Court hearing in September 2021 when Dairy Crest Limited pleaded guilty to offenses for breaches to its Environmental Permit at the Davidstow Creamery dating back to 2016, the Company was today ordered by the Court to pay a fine of £ 1.52 million.

“Once again, the Company would like to express its sincere apologies to those who have been affected. Considerable work has been undertaken to rectify the historic issues to which the prosecution related. The Company continues to invest significant resources in the best technology, processes and people to further improve its environmental performance and minimize its impact on the local community.

“As the largest employer in North Cornwall, the Company remains committed to supporting its local communities and becoming a better neighbor.”

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