£36,000 fine for Heineken subsidiary

15th August 2011

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  • Prosecution ,
  • Pollution & Waste Management ,
  • Water ,
  • Food and drink



A company owned by international drinks firm Heineken has been ordered to pay more than £20,000 in costs on top of a £36,000 fine after repeatedly polluting a river in Hertfordshire.

Universal Beverages, which operates from a site in Ledbury, pleaded guilty to a string of pollution offences over a 12-month period from October 2008, including those resulting in the death of fish in the River Leadon.

The Environment Agency told Hereford Magistrates’ Court that its officers were called to the site on a number of occasions between October 2008 and January 2009 to investigate the pollution of a brook that ran through the facilities and into the River Leadon.

On 14 September 2009, for example, officers were told of a sewage fungus on the bed of the brook. An investigation revealed that it resulted from floor cleaner being poured down a drain inside the biolerhouse that had been wrongly connected to the surface water drainage system. This meant it was discharging contaminated boiler water into the brook.

Less than two weeks later, after confirming reports of dead fish in the river, an agency survey found significant organic pollution in the brook caused apples from the site leaching organic pollutants into the brook.

The firm was also found to have breached of the conditions of its environmental permit and an enforcement notice that was served on the company for revised operational procedures, completion of training and outstanding improvement conditions.

“It is the company’s responsibility to ensure that they have a full understanding of the operation of their site and have adequate control measures and staff training in place to prevent polluting material from impacting on the quality of the local environment,” said an Environment Agency officer in charge of the investigation.

The firm’s lawyer, Stuart Ponting, apologised to the court on behalf of the company for the “operator error and management failings” but claimed these had now been remedied.

The fine is the second in recent months for Heineken over environmental permit violations. In April the firm was fined £2,300, after admitting that its failure to train staff at the Tadcaster Brewery in North Yorkshire led to thousands of litres of beer and cider being diverted to an effluent plant and the loss of an unknown amount of yeast.


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