Environmental Prosecutions, Pollution Laws & Incidents



The Pollutor Pays


The following list contains a sample of the fines and prosecutionthat have resulted from either the spill of chemicals, oil, foodstuffs or fire water, etc into the environment.


Please note we have taken great care in the collation of this list and have only reproduced what is already in the Public Domain. Wherever possible we have attempted to disguise the name of the guilty party.




Failure to comply with conditions on an Environmental Permit by putting the correct drainage and fire prevention systems in place at a Chichestertyre firm has cost the partners of the business over £28,000. Each partner was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of a total of £8,186 at a court in June 2009. They failed to put adequate preventative measures in place to prevent contaminated water runoff from the site entering the local river operations. An Environment Agency spokesman said: "The fine was based on the potential impact on the local environment as the site drainage runs into the Pagham Rife, which then feeds into a highly protected conservation area nearby. If a fire had occurred at the business the environmental impact on the surrounding area and the local environment would have been huge due to the amount of waste tyres stored on site. " 


A Staffordshire waste treatment facility was fined £90,000 for a catalogue of bad practice following a fire in September 2006 which resulted in contamination.


A Multinational china clay company was fined thousand pounds for polluting a local river on several occasions with silt from a clay pit.


A Multinational greetings card and gift wrap producer  was ordered to pay more than £17,000 after it polluted the river Rhymney with firewater and killed 100 brown trout. (Report date March 2007)


A UK Atomic Energy Authority was fined £140,000 for illegally discharging radioactive particles from its nuclear research facility in Caithness. The discharges continued for more than 20 years, causing long-lived contamination of the seabed and local beaches.


A large UK retail plc has been fined £12,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2000 after a diesel oil leak from a Reading Department store polluted a local stream.


A Rotherham-based waste carrier was fined £18,000 by Chesterfield magistrates on 17 March after it transported flammable solvents in an unsuitable tanker and the waste leaked across a chemical treatment site. The total cost to the company was close to £27,000.


One of Britain's largest privately owned waste businesses have been fined £250,000, the largest ever fine for waste offences following a serious fire at its waste treatment site in Gloucester, in 2000. Official investigations into the incident also revealed that they also illegally buried thousands of tonnes of hazardous waste under the site.  


A UK Water company was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,450 after a sewer blockage resulted in an overflow of crude sewage which killed eels, sticklebacks and invertebrates along five kilometres of the river Trym in Bristol.


A large Commercial property developer received a £5,000 fine for polluting a stream with toxic wood preservatives. June 2009


A UK Water company was fined £75,000 when a sewage spill polluted a Hertfordshire river with effluent in May 2008. Poor supervision was sited as the reason for the sewage overflow.


A UK dessert food maker was ordered to pay £ 17,495 in February 2009 for polluting a local watercourse. It was their second fine in eight months.


A London Water Authority received a record fine of £125,000 for killing aquatic life in south London's river Wandle, after an accidental discharge of a cleaning chemical in 2007.


Oil spills at a  Leeds scrapyard resulted in fines of £17,000 in September 2008 after the company pleading guilty to water and waste offences. 


Blocking a fuel pipe with a piece of wood has led to a Devon waste management firm's second fine for polluting a stream, the company were fined £30,000.


A diesel spill cost a Worcestershire company a fine of £12,500. The company had allowed 3,700 litres of red diesel pollute a local  brook.


A London Water authority  has been ordered to pay £40,000 in fines and costs after a sewage spill destroyed the ecology of a Hampshire stream.  


A UK Water company in the South West  was fined in February 2008  for three separate sewage leaks, the worst of which closed a shellfishery for 12 days. 


One of the largest water utility companies were fined £13,500 for a major sewage spill along the Firth of Forth  in April 2007. Several beaches also had to be closed.


A large UK mobile phone company were fined £5,000 with £1,254 in costs after one of it's contractors allowed diesel to leak into the river Salwarpe in September 2006.


One of the UK's largest business services companies, a district council and a Transport company were fined a combined total of £234,000 for 'bungling' a toxic chemical clean-up. The toxic substance entered the river Blackwater, killing thousands of fish and closing drinking water intakes for more than three weeks.


A Cambridge-based engineering company which polluted a field with nickel-contaminated wastewater and threatened drinking water quality was fined £10,000 in April 2006


A UK manufacturer of cleaning products was fined £11,000 for a detergent spill that killed more than 500 fish and caused a three-meter deep bank of foam along a 10 Km stretch of a brook in Feb 2005.


A Chemical manufacturer Associated was  fined £160,000 for health and safety offences plus a further £20,000 under environmental legislation for a major release of bromine from its plant in Anglesey in Sept 1999.


The agency prosecuted 266 companies in 2003, resulting in total fines of more than £2.2 million. The average fine for businesses was £8,622   About 60 firms were fined more than £10,000 and seven firms were fined more than £50,000 in 2003.


In July 1999, a Cleveland based bulk liquids storage company discovered that a storage tank  was leaking and there was a pool of liquid in the bund.    Some cyanide solution entered the on-site effluent system and thence into the River Tees.  A prohibition notice was served, preventing the tank from being used until it had been fully repaired.  Repairs to the affected tank cost £250,000. The company was prosecuted in June 2000 under the Water Resources Act 1991.  They pleaded guilty to discharging  cyanide into the river and were fined £5,000 with £640 costs.


A construction company involved with building the new Wembley Stadium has been fined £10,000 under the Water Resources Act 1991, after construction work led to polluting matter entering the brook which leads into the River Brent.


A Cheyenne based Refining Company agreed to pay $850,000 to reconcile several water pollution violations along Crow Creek in the USA  from 2008


Officials at the 52,000-barrels-a-day refinery said they are working to implement $18 million in improvements to its wastewater treatment plant.


In December 2007, a fire at the company's coking unit caused an emergency discharge of refining by-products into Crow Creek.




A European Metal Recycling company sporadically polluted two brooks near Swindon with oil. An investigation discovered the problems, which were traced back to poor maintenance and bad drains. The company were  Fined £50,000.


A Water Utilities company let raw sewage flow into a stream in Hampshire, and three lakes, killing all the fish. Contractors attended alarms at the site but failed to act on them. The incident was "completely avoidable". The company had to pay £48,000 to restock the fish and were fined £60,000.


A hazardous waste company from Cannock was fined £90,000 for causing a dangerous fire by leaving chemicals that react with water outside on a rainy day. The resulting fire water forced the Cannock company, to plead guilty at Stafford magistrates court to six charges relating to careless operational practices. In December, environment officers were informed of a further series of incidents which went unreported, including waste spillages and fires.


A Water Service company polluted Lambden Farm Lake in Pluckley, Kent, causing high levels of ammonia that killed fish. The sewage came from a broken main - for the fifth time in 19 months. The company were fined £70,700.


In March 2007 two contractor companies renovating a large house in the Dorset countryside were ordered to pay a total of £7,749 in fines and costs after 5,000 litres of heating oil escaped from a broken pipe and triggered a major pollution alert. The Farm, set in a remote part of the Dorset countryside with its own groundwater-fed water supply has springs feeding an ornamental lake and a small stream flowing down a wooded valley. The farm's drinking water supply and lake had been contaminated with fuel oil. Magistrates heard the cost of cleaning up the spill and monitoring local water supplies was £60,000. This was paid for by the Contractors' insurers.


A Food company, were fined a total of £30,000 and ordered to pay £1,710 costs for allowing milk and vegetable contaminating Grimsby Town's drainage system.  A dye test carried out by an Environment Agency officer in October showed that the surface water drain in the company's yard discharged directly into the Towns Croft Drain.At the same time the officer noted that the foul effluent drain appeared to be blocked andwas overflowing into the same surface water drain.  After the hearing Environment Agency officer Christian Martin said: 'Despite being warned following the first incident in August, the company again allowed highly organic polluting matter to enter the watercourse. This should send out a clear message to companies that the Environment Agency will take action against those who disregard environmental law.'


A Tavistock based farm was ordered to pay £4,500 in fines and costs by Plymouth magistrates after pleading guilty to polluting a Devon brook with an organophosphate pesticide in June 2008.


A water company contractor has been ordered to pay £9,736 in fines and costs after sewage leaked into the sea on a Blue Flag beach at Dawlish at the start of the town's annual carnival and the height of the bathing season. A report of a discharge from a local Sewage Pumping Station at Dawlishwas made in August 2006.  Once notified, an engineer should respond to an alarm immediately, yet nobody was on site until the following day. A prompt response may have prevented the discharge of 500 - 600 cubic metres of sewage from this pumping station.


A Water Outsourcing company in London was fined £7,000 and ordered to pay £2,736 costs by Totnes magistrates after pleading guilty to causing sewage effluent to be discharged into controlled waters, namely Lyme Bay.


In December 2007 a South West Water company was fined £7,000 and ordered to pay £3,500 costs for its involvement in the same incident.


A national plant hire company was fined £12,000 for an oil leak which polluted the River Calder.  The company pleaded guilty to polluting the Calder and one of its tributaries, Willowbridge Beck, with diesel oil.  The court heard thieves, in trying to steal fuel, had disconnected a hose which emptied the tank's entire the contents into the yard. Between 3000 and 4000 litres of diesel oil then flowed into surface water drains and down the road, ending up in Willowbridge Beck. "Not only was the company fined £12,000 but in addition it also cost them over £12,000 to clean up the environment following the spill.


A South Devon waste management company was ordered to pay more than £30,000 in fines and costs for allowing diesel to pollute a small stream. In January 2008 an Agency officer traced the pollution of a brook upstream, he estimated that between 30 - 35 gallons of diesel had been lost.  The fuel had run down a slope, entered a sump and then piped into the Aller Brook via a small tributary.


A Devon based Waste Management company was fined a total of £28,000 and ordered to pay £2,276 costs by Totnes magistrates after pleading guilty to causing polluting matter to enter controlled waters, a tributary of the Aller Brook.


A Waste Management company based in Wakefield, was fined £11,700 at Wakefield Magistrates Court for polluting the River Calder with a slick of diesel fuel extending five kilometres  in february 2008. They pleaded guilty, andwere also ordered to pay full costs of £5,170 to the Environment Agency, which brought the case.


An agricultural contractor was ordered to pay £4,536 in fines and costs after farm slurry escaped into a Wiltshire stream killing dozens of fish. The next day more dead fish were discovered on a 40 metre stretch of the Clackers Brook near a local supermarket and children's play area. The spill polluted a 2.5 km stretch of the Clackers Brook from the farm to where the stream flows into the Bristol Avon.


A Yorkshire Water company have paid out almost £10,000 after pleading guilty in Beverley Magistrates Court to polluting Beverley and Barmston Drain, after 11,000 litres of diesel leaked from a corroded pipe in December 2007. Diesel fuel escaped from a pipe and entered the environment from a water treatment works, near Driffield in East Yorkshire, which supplies clean drinking water to Hull. The water company were yesterday fined £8,000 and paid £1500 in costs, plus a £15 victims surcharge. He said there were no procedures in place to deal with a fuel spill and no dedicated oil spill kits on site. They also had to pay between £35,000 and £40,000 on the cost of the clean-up and replaced the pipe.


A South West Water company was ordered to pay £11,875 in fines and costs after sewage overflowed from a North Devon pumping station got into a tributary of the River Taw. A 'plume of murky water' was visible for approximately 20 metres downstream. An external diesel pump had been installed while South West Water sorted out problems with the station's internal pumps. The Water company  was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £1,875 costs by Barnstaple magistrates after pleading guilty to two offences under the Water Resources Act 1991 for discharging sewage effluent from a Pumping Station into a controlled water.


A Worcestershire dessert manufacturer has been prosecuted for the second time in a year for polluting a local watercourse with food by-products. In February 2009, the dessert manufacturer was  fined 12,000 GBP for polluting a tributary of the Laugherne Brook with their trade effluent.  They were also ordered to pay costs of 5,480.58 GBP, along with a victim surcharge of 15 GBP. In December 2007 the company suffered a power cut which shut down the whole factory, including their effluent pumping system.  After power was restored, staff failed to check whether the pumping station had restarted and the company resumed production. The pumps had not restarted, causing their highly-polluting effluent to overflow into a local watercourse. 


Two companies, who leased units at HenlowCamp, were fined around £40,000 to clean up, as well as £9,473 in fines and court costs.  The companies faced prosecution because of leaking oil storage tanks which were not inside secondary containment areas, designed to stop leaked oil escaping into the environment. 


A poultry slaughter factory, which caused the pollution of Moor Drain with blood, feathers and fat, was fined a total of £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3.596.61, along with a victim surcharge of £15.00. In February 2008 the company incorrectly believed that the spilled effluent was not leaving the site as the site's drainage plan did not show any surface water drains in the vicinity of the effluent treatment plant. This pollution incident was completely avoidable if the company had known their own site drainage. This highlights the importance of having accurate drainage plans and site staff being aware of what to do during a spillage. 


A farm company was fined £2,500 and ordered to pay full Environment Agency costs of £4,609 after admitting causing pollution in June 2008. Fungicide from a farm was responsible for killing more than 50 Signal crayfish and many invertebrates when it polluted a watercourse, Bury St Edmunds Magistrates' Court heard 


In February 2009 a depot yard company pleaded guilty to the pollution of the River Ryton after a spillage of red diesel. The company was  fined 5,000 GBP and ordered to pay costs of 3,385.21 GBP, along with a victim surcharge 15 GBP. The court heard that on 20 November 2007 the Environment Agency received reports of oil on the surface of the River Ryton at Bracebridge. 


A water company whose careless operational practices decimated the aquatic life in an iconic urban river was fined £125,000 and ordered to pay £21,335 in clean up and investigation costs. The water utilities company pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to allowing a large quantity of industrial strength chlorine to spill into the River Wandle from its Beddington Sewage Treatment Works near South London in September 2007. It took three days for Environment Agency officers, helped by members of the Wandle Trust and local angling clubs, to remove some two tonnes of dead fish from the river. An experienced Environment Agency officer at the scene said that it was the worst pollution incident he had ever dealt with, and wiped out 20 years of painstaking river restoration in a single day.


A Boston based food company, were ordered to pay a fine of £13,300 and full costs of £4,083 at Skegness Magistrates Court. The company, which supplies frozen peas to various major multiples, was investigated after pea effluent polluted a watercourse for at least 1.5km. The pollution of the surface water system - and therefore the drain -  may have been avoided if the system had been inspected properly as per the Environment Agency guidance booklet "Pollution Prevention Pays; Getting your site right".'


On 2nd October 2008, a Trent Water company pleaded guilty at Hinckley Magistrates Court to one charge relating to polluting Gilwiskaw Brook, a tributary of the River Mease. The charge was brought by the Environment Agency under the Water Resources Act 1991. The company was fined £13,500 and ordered to pay costs of £4,500. A fish mortality survey showed that an estimated 18,000 fish were killed from 12 different species, virtually wiping out the fish population at the point where the Gilwiskaw Brook discharges into the River Meade.


WASHINGTON USA - The nation's fourth-largest coal producer, was hit with a $20 million fine, the largest civil penalty ever levied by the federal government for a pollution violation of this type under the Clean Water Act. The fine was part of a $30 million settlement with the government over accusations that the company violated water pollution permit limits more than 4,500 times from January 2000 to December 2006. The government said the company had polluted and clogged hundreds of streams and rivers in Kentuckyand West Virginia by releasing millions of pounds of metals, sediments and acid mine drainage into their waterways.


A Columbia State utility has been fined US$25,000 for last year's spill in the Saluda River. The fine on the Utilities firm was issued by the Department of Health and Environmental Control.  Last summer, the sewage spill closed five miles of the Saluda River.  They reported that the utility company had "spent US$160,000 dollars to fix the problem".


A US train company was fined  US$1.4 million  following a  train derailment that dumped nearly 800,000 litres of oil and a chemical into Lake Wabamun. The Wabamun spill involved 700,000 litres of bunker oil and 88,000 litres of toxic wood preservative from 43 rail cars. It killed hundreds of birds and fish, polluted beaches and shoreline. The caustic sodium hydroxide spill killed hundreds of thousands of salmon, trout and char in the river. The company were ordered to pay an additional US$400,000 in fines related to that incident.


The US state Department of Environmental Protection has issued a US$ 34,187 fine against a company that was the source of a chemical leak last fall that prompted an evacuation. In October 2008, sulfuric acid fumes leaked from a storage tank at the Chemical plant in Petrolia. The company also faces an additional US$121,500 in costs related to federal workplace safety fines for the leak.


A sanitation district that operates a treatment plant on San Francisco Bay is facing fines of up to US$332,000 for spills that sent wastewater into the bay. State water regulators said incidents sent a combined 775,000 gallons of partially treated or raw sewage into the bay.


In December 1999 a leak at a nylon manufacturing chemical firm in Middlesborough resulted in the death of one of it's workers. The cost of lost production was estimated at £727,000.


 In July 1999, a worker at a Middlesborough storage facility discovered that a storage tank containing 750 tonnes of 30% sodium cyanide solution was leaking and there was a pool of liquid in the bund. Although the tank was bunded, the containment system consisted of only a concrete wall, without an impermeable base. The replacement tank cost £250,000 and the Operator paid £20,000 towards the environmental monitoring costs incurred by the Agency.  


In January 2000, there was a release of 70kgs of sulphur dichloride into a process building, from one of the batch reactor systems at a Yorkshire chemical works. The total cost of the accident was £47,000.


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