Dairy Crest Limited has been fined £1.5m for environmental offences, receiving the largest ever fine for an Environment Agency conviction in the South West.
The Agency said that the company, which makes brands such as Cathedral City cheese, had had an unacceptable environmental performance for far too long. Its Davidstow Creamery site near Camelford in North Cornwall fell well short of the expected standards in terms of its management of liquid waste, odour and environmental reporting.
The site changed its production to focus on whey processing to produce the powder used in baby milk and other products; since this change, the effluent being discharged into the River Inny has been more challenging to treat. An unacceptable level of pollution occurred as a result of the company’s failures, causing significant harm to fish and other aquatic wildlife. Local residents also complained of foul odours.
The Agency prosecuted the company for offences including:
- Releasing a harmful biocide, used to clean wastewater tanks and pipework, into the river on 16 August 2016, killing thousands of fish over two kilometres
- Coating the River Inny with a noxious black sludge for five kilometres due to the release of a mass of suspended solids in July and August 2018
- Consistently exceeding limits on substances such as phosphorous and suspended solids entering the River Inny from 2016–2021
- Numerous leaks of part-treated effluent into nearby watercourses and onto the land
- Foul odours repeatedly affecting residents over many years
- On seven separate occasions, failing to tell the Agency within 24 hours when things had gone significantly wrong on site.
Dairy Crest pleaded guilty to 21 of the 27 charges brought against it. It was fined £1.52m at Truro Crown Court and agreed to pay costs of £272,747.
Environment Agency area director Helen Dobby commented: “As a large and well-established operator, Dairy Crest Limited should be up to the job of maintaining the required environmental standards. Instead, it has over a period of many years failed to comply with its environmental permit and not been able to protect local people and the environment.
“We acknowledge that Dairy Crest Limited has been taking steps to remedy the various problems, but unfortunately these actions were not swift enough on many occasions and proved to be ineffective in stopping pollution.”