£14,000 Penalty For River Pollution


A West Yorkshire company was fined £13,000 at Batley and Dewsbury Magistrates Court today, 10 March 2008, for offences involving the pollution of the River Spen with liquid latex.

National Floor Coverings Limited of Wellington Mills, Leeds Road, Heckmondwike, whose registered office is Greenwood Flooring Ltd, Greenhill Lane, Riddings Alfreton, Derbyshire, pleaded guilty and were also ordered to pay full costs of £1,574.81 to the Environment Agency, which brought the case, plus a victim surcharge of £15.

Paul Harley, prosecuting for the Environment Agency, told the court that the incident was reported by the defendant on 4 April 2007. Environment Agency officers attended the scene on the same day.

They observed a white milky discharge into the River Spen downstream from Wakefield Road which had coloured the width of the river and was visible at least 100 metres downstream. They took photographs and water samples.

River Spen PollutionThey discovered a bund, designed to contain leakage from a storage tank, with a large amount of white liquid. An examination of the bund’s external wall showed seepage into the surrounding area.

It was discovered that the original storage tank had a float to visibly show the level of contents, but did not have an electronic alarm. The defendants said that an employee had activated a pump without checking the level in the tank and the liquid had overflowed into the bund, then seeped through the bund wall.

From there it had entered a land drain and eventually passed to the river, causing a significant visual effect in the watercourse which was recovering from a history of pollution.

The company had previously been fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £3,000 in costs to the Environment Agency, following a court case on 17 May 2006 when they pleaded guilty to allowing liquid latex to enter the River Spen on 9 June 2005.

The court heard that although the defendants had experienced a very similar leakage in the past they had failed to test the bund and failed to fit a fail safe or warning device to the tank concerned.

In mitigation it was said that since the last incident the company had instigated new safety procedures and had the bund sealed. The company took their environmental obligations seriously and had prevented the incident escalating.

The magistrates said that they gave full credit for the early plea and the systems that the company had introduced. However, this was a second offence in a short space of time involving a leaking bund and the financial penalty had to be meaningful.

Andy Mollitt of the Environment Agency said: “Although the company was the first to call us when this pollution incident happened, the fact remains that had they learnt lessons from the previous incident they would not have been in court today. We will not hesitate to prosecute businesses who cause pollution problems, where appropriate.”