Tesco fined £8 million over petrol leak into river

19th July 2017

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  • Pollution & Waste Management



Supermarket chain Tesco has been slapped with a substantial fine over a petrol leak, polluting the River Irwell.

Of the £8 million fine, only £3 million accounted for the environmental offence, which saw the river polluted within a 10 mile radius and over 40 dead fish within a 2 mile vicinity.

Between Wednesday 2 July and Thursday 3 July 2014, nearly 24,000 litres of petrol escaped from a petrol filling tank at a petrol station in Haslingden operated by Tesco.

It entered the sewerage system and the odours affected residents up to 1km away, causing headaches and sickness. Some of the petrol also entered Langwood Brook, as well as the River Irwell, causing a significant environmental impact.

An investigation was carried out jointly by the Environment Agency and partners, and the leak spawned a large emergency clean-up, with assistance from bodies such as Lancashire County Council, Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service and Lancashire Police.

Tesco was found to have failed to address a known problem with its fuel delivery system, which was compounded by poor emergency procedures.

Tesco’s fuel division has a reported turnover of £5.5 billion. The fine was broken into two parts: first, £3 million for causing a water discharge activity not authorised under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010, and second, £5 million for breaching the Dangerous Substances and Explosives Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR) 2002 and the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

The fine, the largest for a single incident of pollution, shows the weight of the sentencing guidelines for environmental and health and safety offences, which relates the size of the fine to business turnover. It seems Tesco was tried under a category 1 harm, and classed as a large company turnover, and has paid a hefty price for its failings.

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