On Wednesday 5 November, Ibstock Bricks (1996) Limited pleaded guilty to the charge of breaching an environmental discharge consent.
The company, based in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire was fined £27,000, ordered to pay £6,501.25 in costs, along with a £120 victim surcharge.
The charge was brought by the Environment Agency under Regulations 38(2) of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010.
This case concerned the pollution of the Silverdale Brook (also locally known as the Lyme Brook) with clay material from the Knutton Quarry site based at Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, spreading over 3.5 kilometres. The site operates with an environmental discharge consent granted by the Environment Agency. The conditions of the discharge consent are specifically tailored to the operations of the site in order to protect the environment from potentially polluting discharges that enter watercourses.
On the 15 August 2013, a company representative contacted the Environment Agency to advise that due to a failure in the discharge equipment at the site, the consent limit had been exceeded and had caused visible pollution to the Silverdale Brook. Prompt investigation and action by the Environment Agency limited the extent of the pollution, although polluting material could have been discharged into the watercourse for anything up to a 13 hour period.
The company co-operated with the Environment Agency throughout the investigation. It confirmed that the cause of the pollution was the result of a mechanical failure in their equipment. There was no failsafe device to ensure that polluting material was not pumped into the Brook following this failure. This had now been rectified.
Speaking after the case, an Environment Agency officer in charge of the investigation said:
Although Ibstock Bricks (1996) Limited reported the discharge to us, it was too late to prevent the pollution of the Silverdale Brook. We do everything we can to protect the environment, local rivers and watercourses. This case sends out a clear message that we will not hesitate to prosecute as necessary when environmental damage is caused.
In mitigation, the company expressed its remorse and accepted responsibility for the pollution incident.