Pork processor fined for polluting stream

A Lincolnshire processor has been fined £10,000 after ammonia from its refrigeration units escaped into a nearby stream, causing the death of more than 100 fish.

Adams Pork Products pleaded guilty to polluting a tributary of the Ruskington Beck during a hearing at the Grantham Magistrates’ Court. The company was fined and ordered to pay £4,393 in expenses for its role in the incident, which took place at its site in Ruskington, near Sleaford.

The court heard that Adams had supplied a container of water to contractors carrying out maintenance work on the refrigeration units, who needed to bubble ammonia through water. The liquid was subsequently spilt and leaked into in a tributary of Ruskington Beck, polluting 2.5km of watercourse and seriously affecting its biology.

Miriam Tordoff, prosecuting, said that the Environment Agency was notified by a member of the public, who saw dead fish in the stream. Investigating officers traced the pollution back to a pipe leading from the site into the water near the refrigeration units. There were more than 50 dead fish and many dead leeches within 50m downstream of the pipe.

Tordoff said that the company had few procedures in place to deal with the incident or prevent it happening, did not know the full extent of the site’s drainage and had not checked what the container was to be used for.

Steve Bowling, site director at the time of the offence, told officers that the company had been unaware that there was a French drain in the area where the container was sited, although he did admit that drainage plans showed that the drain connects to the watercourse.

He said that although there had been a “walk through” of the work to be carried out, the only environmental issue considered at the time was the possibility of oil spills. He added that the company had relied on the specialist expertise of their contractors.

Commenting after the hearing, Environment Agency investigating officer James Brackenbury said: “Ammonia can have a devastating effect on wildlife, poisoning fish and other aquatic organisms or seriously affecting their health, breeding and the food they live on.

“Adams did not have enough procedures in place to deal with this incident, resulting in the water having a level of ammonia 24 times higher than could be expected in the poorest-quality watercourse.”

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