Renewable energy firm forced to pay after north Fenland stream was polluted with liquid 100 times more damaging than sewage

A RENEWABLE energy company was forced to pay more than �12,000 after five miles of a Fenland stream were polluted with compost.

CH4 Power Ltd, who set up the anaerobic digestion at Moat Road Farm, Terrington St Clement, were found responsible for poisoning the water with a concentrated liquor, 100 times more polluting than sewage.

Clare Bentley, prosecuting at King’s Lynn Magistrates Court, said: “An extensive clean-up had to be carried out in March last year after the pollution had been ongoing for at least two months.

“The company had admitted running before it could walk and had failed to test the integrity of drainage on the site before storing organic matter there.

“They stockpiled waste vegetables, mostly onions, from the local food processing industry, in inadequate storage facilities, there was no separate system for dealing with surface water.”

Agents from the Environment Agency were called to the stream in Hay Green after it was reported that rich brown coloured water smelling strongly of onions was running into it.

Further down the stream, the water had turned black, indicating the water had turned septic.

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Drainage plans showed that liquid from a containment ditch passed into an old land drainage system which connected to a newer drainage system and into the stream.

Jonathan Eales, mitigating, said: “As soon as the company became aware of the pollution they immediately took steps to remediate. The suggestion that the company had polluted the environment when it sought to do the opposite was horrific.”

CH4 Power were fined �5,000 and ordered to pay the costs of �7,284 to the Environment Agency and Adrian Venni, Managing Director, said: “The storage of onions on site had been greater than ever intended because they had not been able to get the digester on site to work.

“They thought run-off from the waste would be contained in the ditch but it escaped into the stream through unknown pipes.”

After the hearing Environment Agency officer David Batterham said: “This incident shows how important it is to plan ahead, ensure that any drainage system serving industrial and agricultural sites are designed and sized appropriately and are tested to ensure that they are fit for purpose.

“When vegetable matter is stored it starts to compost and break down, producing a concentrated liquor which is extremely polluting, hundreds of times more so than sewage. It takes very little of this sort of material to completely decimate our streams and rivers.”