Polluter Made To Pay

Environment Agency News Release

A company which repeatedly discharged excessive amounts of treated sewage into one of Oxfordshire's most sensitive streams was ordered to pay fines and costs totaling £7,500.

HBP Management Ltd, of Lime Kiln House, Great Rollright, Oxfordshire, was ordered to pay £4,000 by Banbury Magistrates' Court after pleading guilty to eight offences of failing to meet its consent to discharge treated sewage into the River Evenlode.

The company also pleaded guilty to one charge of discharging more sewage effluent than they were allowed and were ordered to pay £500. The company were also ordered to pay the Environment Agency's costs of £3,000.

The court heard that the company has a consent to discharge treated sewage effluent from a small treatment works on the Hanborough Business Park, Long Hanborough in Oxfordshire. The site houses 30 offices and industrial units, and the sewage works was put on the site following its construction in 1991 because it could not be connected to the main sewerage system.

The conditions of the discharge consent aim to prevent pollution of the River Evenlode, which receives the treated sewage effluent. It sets limits on measurable indicators of sewage effluent quality, such as suspended solids and biochemcial oxygen demand. The consent also set the condition that the discharge should not contain any matter which could be poisonous to fish or their spawning grounds.

But between 27 February 2005 and 2 May 2007 the Environment Agency took eight samples of the final effluent discharge at Hanborough Park * with all eight showing that levels were above the consented limit. On one occasion, the effluent quality parameters were four times higher than the agreed limit.

Sewage is harmful to the aquatic environment as it reduces oxygen levels and can settle on the river-bed, hampering fish from spawning. It can cause physical damage to the gills of fish and can reduce light penetration into the water, affecting growth of vital plants. It can also affect the quality of the ground water in the area of discharge.

The River Evenlode, which rises above Moreton in the Marsh, has the second highest classification a watercourse can obtain, with a grade B rating for water quality. This contains one of the most diverse invertebrate communities in the area, and contains several rare species including the Fine-lined Pea Mussel and the Thames Ram Horn Snail. Both these species require very good water quality to survive.

HBP Management was contacted by the Environment Agency following each failures and the company failed to rectify the problem by the actions it took.

The court also heard that Lomax Wilmouth Management Services, a predecessor company of the Director, Mr Charles Wilmouth had also been fined £1,250 on the 6 May 1993 at Woodstock Magistrates' Court and ordered to pay costs of £470 for a similar offence in relation to a tributary of the River Evenlode.

Joe Cuthbertson, investigating officer for the Environment Agency, said:
"The company were responsible for a series of failures over a period of 27 months which could have had a serious impact on the health of the river and the ground water. The fact that the company were discharging more than they were allowed to also meant that the threat to the environment was much greater.

"This was a systematic breach of a consent over a sustained period but, fortunately, there was no discernible effect on the river quality or the ground water.

"HBP Management are a small company and have made some effort to rectify the problem. But we welcome the sentence imposed by the court today as a reminder that discharge consent holders must take their statutory and environmental responsibilities seriously."