Fish kill will cost chemical company

10th April 2013


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IEMA

Peterborough crown court will decide the size of the penalty to be imposed on Safapac after the chemical and packaging company pleaded guilty at a magistrates' court to polluting the River Nene in June 2012

Magistrates sent the case to the crown court because they felt that their sentencing powers, which are limited to fines of £20,000 per offence, were insufficient.

Thousands of fish died when 5,000 litres of agricultural chemicals leaked into the river from the Safapac site in Orton Southgate, Peterborough.

The court heard that some of the fish were bleached and others leapt from the water and died along a 50km stretch of the River Nene. The cost of the pollution to the Greater Wash Fishing Industries Group is estimated at more than £216,000.

The company, which specialises in wet milling, flammables, toxics and other chemical liquid blending operations, as well as packing liquid and solid substances, reported the spill to the Environment Agency.

An investigation revealed that three substances – an insecticide, a fungicide and a disinfectant that are known to be toxic to aquatic organisms and can cause burns, drowsiness or dizziness in humans – had entered a surface water drain that discharged to the river.

Anne-Lise McDonald, prosecuting for the agency, told magistrates that Safapac’s high-level risk assessment had failed to identify vandalism as a risk but that on the morning of the incident staff arrived at the site to find that taps on the storage containers had been opened and a ladder which had been used to gain entry.

Police records show that since 2010 Safapac had made five reports of criminal or anti-social behaviour directed at the company or in the immediate area involving youths causing damage to its property or trespassing.

McDonald argued that the pollution could have been prevented if the chemicals had been stored securely.

“Bulk containers containing the chemicals were stored in external bunkers near to the road. There was no bunding and no secondary containment in case of spills,” she said. McDonald also reported that there was an open drain in the storage area and another just outside.

The company says that chemicals at the Orton Southgate site are now stored in locked shipping containers.


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