£100,000 hangover for brewery after water pollution incident

In a case brought by the Environment Agency, MCB Ltd were in court on 17 March 2016 for polluting the River Wey and the Lasham Drain (which carries surface water runoff and is a tributary of the River Wey).

MCB Ltd pleaded guilty to 2 offences: causing a water discharge activity and breaching the condition of its environmental permit with respect to monitoring the Lasham Drain for fungus. The offences resulted in the discharge of process trade effluent from the installation activities at their premises at Alton Brewery, Lower Turk Street, Manor Park, Alton, Hampshire into the Lasham Drain and causing pollution which went undetected.

The court heard that there had been gutters on the building known as the “boiler room” located next to a trade effluent chamber that ran directly to the Lasham Drain. The gutters had been removed when the building had been extended and the chamber was converted from a storm water drain to a trade waste effluent drain from this section of the building. When the alterations were made the contractors had used a liner which did not seal the chamber to divert the trade effluent, resulting in not completely blocking the existing pipe and pathway to the Lasham Drain.

The Environment Agency first received reports of the presence of fungus in the stream flowing outside Waterside Court Alton, before flowing along the River Wey towards Holybourne. An Environment Agency officer checked the watercourse and confirmed that a lot of fungus was present in Waterside Court.

Environment Officers traced the pollution to MCB Ltd premises where a discharge of trade effluent was seen to be entering the Lasham Drain culvert within the brewery. The effluent was discovered to be flowing into the Lasham Drain culvert through the cracks and defects in the chamber.

The company had also failed to respond to the regular monitoring and visual inspections that they were obliged to carry out as a requirement of their permit issued by the Environment Agency. This monitoring clearly indicated that there was a serious problem in the Lasham Drain but MCB Ltd failed to act upon this information.

The drainage problems at MCB Ltd which caused the pollution led to a significant reduction in the water’s biological quality at Lasham Drain and downstream in the Wey North, compared with that of the upstream control site. The presence of large quantities of sewage fungus indicated that very high nutrient organic matter was entering the Lasham Drain.

Paul Greaves, Senior Environment Agency officer said:

We take these types of incidents very seriously and will do everything within our powers to safeguard the environment and people affected, and that includes bringing those who harm the environment to account for their actions.

It is important that the courts send out a clear message to all companies operating in this sector. Regulations are there to protect the environment and that the courts will act firmly where regulations are breached and where the environment is either damaged or put at risk of damage.

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