Not-for-profit membership association Fish Legal has secured £30,000 for a Derbyshire based coarse fishing club whose 9.5 acre lake was polluted by a chemical company in 2009.
The Williamthorpe Angling Club benefited from the free legal representation offered by Fish Legal's expert lawyers, who take on water pollution cases on behalf member clubs all over the UK. In England, Fish Legal also acts as the legal arm of the Angling Trust.
Williamthorpe Angling Club looks after the fishing on a series of three 'ponds' in Williamthorpe Nature Reserve just off junction 29 on the M1. On 9 September 2009 a catalogue of errors at a factory on the Holmewood Industrial Estate in Chesterfield saw chemicals used in textile manufacturing drain straight into the public sewer and on to the local sewage treatment works. Once there, they knocked out the delicate biological treatment process at the works. By 11th September a deadly cocktail of raw untreated sewage mixed with toxic chemicals was released into the first of the series of ponds. Specimen tench, roach, bream and ide began to die in huge numbers.
Members of the club, staff from Yorkshire Water, Derbyshire County Council and the Environment Agency all tried desperately to rescue fish from this catastrophic pollution, but it became apparent early on that all they could do was bag up and weigh in the dead. The Environment Agency assessed the pollution as causing almost an entire fish-kill, having a major impact on the environment.
1,290 lbs of dead fish were eventually recovered, although many more went unaccounted for having sunk to the bottom or been eaten by other animals.
As members of Fish Legal, the club approached the association to make a claim against the chemical company. Although the polluter admitted liability they made every effort to downplay the effect the incident had on the club and its fishing. Fish Legal argued for over a year with the polluter's insurers before finally achieving the £30,000 payout to the club.
John Lewis from the Williamthorpe Angling Club said:
"The club is delighted with actions taken by Fish Legal on their behalf. I would recommend any fishing club not currently a member of Fish Legal to join and achieve peace of mind. The size of the claim does show that any loss of fish can result in huge expenses, not only the restocking costs, but also the associated loss of the facility".
Fish Legal also recovered £4,000 of its own costs which will go back into its 'fighting fund' to continue its legal work to protect fisheries and angling on behalf of all of its members.