Two companies have been ordered to pay more than £10,000 after they unlawfully discharging pig slurry into a Saltburn watercourse and killed more than 1,300 fish.
F Brunton & Sons Ltd, of Barnaby Grange, Guisborough, and N C Buckton Ltd, of South Cattleholmes, Wansford, Driffield, have each been fined £8,000 and ordered to pay £2,333.98 in legal costs after admitting an illegal discharge in March 2012 last year.
The firms were sentenced by Teesside Magistrates today, following an Environment Agency investigation into reports of a smelly, green pollutant seen in Skelton Beck where it flows through Valley Gardens in Saltburn.
Nigel Augustin, prosecuting for the Environment Agency, told the court that officers contacted local farmers in order to trace the source of the pollution.
In doing so, they spoke to Andrew Brunton, who said he had been spreading slurry on his farms in the area via a contractor, Neil Colin Buckton, of N C Buckton Ltd.
Sampling at Barnaby Grange Farm revealed that slurry had been able to flow off the fields from into drains which eventually fed Sandswath Beck, which in turn feeds Skelton Beck.
The pollution was visible for 3km from the discharge, and dead fish were seen over a distance of 10km. It was estimated that among the wildlife killed were 150 sea trout, 800 bullhead, 400 stickleback, 20 minnow and at least one salmon.
An assessment of the impact of the pollution concluded that all invertebrates, apart from worms, downstream of the slurry discharge were dead.
In mitigation, Simon Catterall, representing F Brunton & Sons Ltd, told the court that the firm had assisted with the clean-up by creating three dams near the beck. F Brunton & Sons also repeatedly used a 3,000-litre tanker to remove polluted water from the watercourse.
Jeremy Scott, representing N C Buckton Ltd said that he had not been made aware of the location of all of the watercourses and ditches. He said that some of the slurry may have escaped from a faulty pipe which had been used to spread the slurry on the land.
Jon Shelley, Environment Management Team Leader at the Environment Agency, said: “This case demonstrates the how important it is for companies to take all necessary precautions when handling substances that could potentially have a detrimental impact on the environment. The pig slurry that was discharged in March last year had a devastating effect on wildlife in Skelton Beck, and it also had the potential to impact on the bathing water quality at Saltburn.
“Anyone who witnesses any type of watercourse pollution is urged to report the matter to the Environment Agency’s incident hotline on 0800 807060.”
Each firm was also ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £15.