One of the UK’s largest dairy companies has been fined DKK 1.5 million. GBP for repeatedly polluting a river near its Cornwall the factory and makes local residents suffer for years with harmful odors – but the problems continue.
Dairy Crest was convicted on Thursday at Truro crown court for repeatedly violating its environmental permit at Davidstow creamery in Camelford. The place, the UK’s largest dairy processing plant, produces Cathedral City cheese, Clover and Country Life.
The court heard how Dairy Crest in 2016 began installing groundbreaking equipment to treat whey, which could then be sold to baby milk producers and as a probiotic food additive.
However, the equipment did not work as intended. Over the years, the company dumped liquid waste, suspended solids and “biological sludge” into the Inny River, raising its nutrient levels and killing trout and salmon. Partially treated wastewater also leaked to nearby soil. In one incident, purified sewage from the crematorium was released into the Inny River, which contained a biocide that killed hundreds of fish.
At the sentencing, where Dairy Crests CEO Tom Atherton was present, the company blamed some of the problems on contractors’ design of new construction equipment.
But Judge Simon Carr was critical of the company’s response, saying its senior and middle management had been involved in all phases and should have responded better. He noted that some of those responsible for managing the site’s wastewater system felt “trimmed and bullied” and criticized the fact that equipment continued to be used, even after so many failures.
While Dairy Crest described the project as a financial failure, the Environment Agency (EA) argued in court that the primary factor behind the breach had been its pursuit of good for its investment. Carr said the project’s failure was irrelevant, noting that the company “made a carefully considered commercial decision, which turned out to be wrong”.
In addition to environmental damage, odors from the factory led to residents complaining of headaches and preventing them from leaving their homes.
A resident nearby, Phil Potter, whose home had been exposed to “horrible” egg odors since 2016, told the Guardian he had “mixed feelings” about the verdict. “Now the company is doing a lot of work to fix the problem, it’s just a pity they did not do it in the first place.”
Dairy Crest, which is now owned by the Canadian company Saputo Dairy, pleaded guilty in September to 21 charges of violating the law and was given the credit for this by the judge in ruling on a verdict. In addition to a total fine of £ 1.52 million, it must pay the Environmental Protection Agency £ 272,747 in costs.
In a statement, Dairy Crest offered “sincere apologies” to those affected, saying it had done work to rectify the factory’s problems. “Again, the company would like to express its sincere apologies to those who have been affected. Significant work has been done to address the historical issues raised by the prosecution. 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. “
But the problems continue. The Environmental Protection Agency, which filed the lawsuit, said Dairy Crest had completed several improvement projects at its wastewater treatment plant by the end of 2021, including the installation of new types of filters, but these had “not yet fully resolved” all of its concerns. There have been a number of permit breaches this year, mainly related to damage to the site caused during storm Eunice.
The Environmental Protection Agency says it “remains deeply concerned” about the site’s environmental performance and its impact on the environment and continues to monitor it. It assesses the site’s environmental approval as part of a broader review of the food and beverage sector and says that if changes are made, they will be the subject of a public consultation.