£50k fine for serious river pollution

ENVIRONMENT AGENCY NEWS RELEASE

A serious pollution incident resulting in the death of over 700 fish was the subject of a Crown Court hearing in Bradford, resulting in a fine/sentence of £50,000 for Mr Khan and £1 for Dr Clean (UK) Ltd, the Company is no longer trading.

Adam Khan and Dr Clean (UK) Ltd, both of 39 Springwood Hall Gardens, Huddersfield, pleaded guilty to charges of allowing polluting material to enter the River Holme at Huddersfield, and were ordered to pay costs of £5,000 to the Environment Agency, which brought the case.

Diana Maudslay, prosecuting for the Environment Agency, told the court that a member of the public called the Environment Agency on 11 December 2005 to report pollution and dead fish in the River Holme near King’s Mill Bridge, Huddersfield.

An Environment Agency officer visited the site on the same day and discovered large amounts of foam covering the river from bank to bank to a depth of several feet. He also saw over 100 dead fish that day, and noted that chunks of foam could be seen on the river three kilometres away downstream.

He identified the possible source of the pollution as an industrial unit on the Queens Mill Road Industrial Estate, later linked to Dr Clean (UK) Ltd., with a tenancy agreement signed by Azr Quaddus, now known as Adam Khan.

Mr Khan was interviewed on 22 March 2006. He said that he had intended to trade from the industrial unit, but the business had not been successful. He had been left with a pallet of 5 litre containers of washing-up liquid at the unit, and had instructed a person identified as Ali, who was in his pay, to ensure that the unit was cleared out.

Unknown persons had agreed to take away the surplus washing-up liquid but managed to spill large amounts of it in the unit yard when due to negligence during an unsupervised loading onto their truck.

An ecological appraisal was carried out by Environment Agency officers, which counted 755 dead fish, including 289 brown trout. The trout populations will be unable to recover naturally. It is likely that more fish died and were lost downstream. The ecological impact extended over 2.7 kilometres but visually the pollution could be seen for many miles downstream

In mitigation it was said that the Mr Khan entered an early guilty plea. That his Company was a small enterprise.

In passing sentence, the judge commented that Mr Khan did have a duty to protect against pollution and his attitude was cavalier.

Judge Jonathan Durham Hall also said that it was a reckless breach of the law which had resulted in a serious environmental catastrophe and Khan had a financial motive to save himself and the Company the costs. He neglected to put in place preventative or appropriate measures and he failed to take into account advice given and this was a serious breach of water resources legislation.

He commented that the public was acutely aware of the need to protect the heritage of the area and would be outraged if he did not impose a suitable and sensible deterrent financial penalty.

The Court recognised and commended the member of the public who took time to report the matter to the Environment Agency and assist the investigations.

Max Folkett of the Environment Agency said: “This was one of the most serious pollution incident to occur in the West Yorkshire area for the last 15 years, and caused a lot of damage to the watercourse and wildlife.

“It’s crucial that when businesses are handling strong chemicals that they do so carefully. Spills like this can have serious consequences for the environment.

“We will not hesitate to take the appropriate action in pollution cases, and ultimately the consequences can extend to court hearings and sentences, resulting in large financial penalties.”