One of Britain’s largest dairy companies has admitted dumping illegal amounts of smelly sewage into a Cornwall river, killing thousands of fish with a powerful chemical and destroying the local ecosystem.
Dairy Crest, which was fined more than £ 1.5 million, violated the permit conditions that allowed it to discharge wastewater from its Davidstow Creamery in north Cornwall, where the popular cheese Cathedral City is made.
A powerful biocide used to purify sewage tanks and pipelines was released into the Inny River, which flows into the Tamar River, killing thousands of fish over a 2 km (1.2 mile) stretch of water in August 2016.
A 5km long section of Inny was also left covered with black sludge two years later.
Overwhelming odors from “fatty emissions” prevented people living nearby from leaving their homes, the Truro Crown Court heard.
The violations took place over a five-year period from 2016, despite the site having its own wastewater treatment plant.
Employees in charge of the wastewater treatment plant felt “bullied and intimidated” by their line manager, the court was told.
The Davidstow Creamery, which operates around the clock, every day of the week, processes 1.3 million liters of milk from 370 dairy farms daily.
The site struggled to cope with amounts of liquid waste – known as wastewater – as it expanded its activities in 2014 to house a facility for probiotic dairy products.
At the time, it was run by Dairy Crest – now known as Saputo Dairy UK, which made £ 21 million in profits last year.
The company – which says it is the largest employer in North Cornwall – admitted 21 offenses related to pollution and odor incidents at Truro Crown Court in December.
It also admitted to failing to notify the Environmental Protection Agency within 24 hours when things had gone significantly wrong seven times.
Judge Simon Carr fined the company £ 1.52 million in court on Thursday, saying there was evidence of a bad management culture in the company.
The fine is the largest that has ever been awarded for a ruling by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency in the Southwest.
The problems lasted for many years and “ruined the lives of those who lived nearby,” Judge Carr added.
“Sometimes it was so bad that people who lived locally were not able to leave their houses,” he said.
“Although there is no evidence that the discharges actually posed a risk to health, those living nearby knew that they smelled ugly discharges from a major commercial concern and were undoubtedly concerned about the impact on health as well as their quality of life.”
The company was ordered to pay the full fine within 28 days and previously agreed to pay legal costs of £ 273,000.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s area director, Helen Dobby, criticized Dairy Crest for not protecting residents and the environment.
She added: “We recognize that Dairy Crest Limited has taken steps to remedy the various problems, but unfortunately these actions were not quick enough on many occasions and proved ineffective in stopping pollution.”
Dairy Crest offered its “sincere apologies” to all affected by the brides, saying it “remains committed to supporting communities and being a better neighbor”.
“Significant work has been done to address the historical issues raised by the prosecution,” the company said in a statement.
“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.”