The Environment Agency has accepted an Enforcement Undertaking from a company who spread excessive amounts of sewage sludge on land near Doncaster contrary to the Environmental Permitting (England & Wales) Regulations 2016.
The Enforcement Undertaking has been agreed after Sanderson Environmental Ltd were found to have breached conditions of their environmental permits for two fields at Highwood Farm, near Rossington, Doncaster. This follows an investigation which began in 2017.
The company, who operated on the land, have paid costs of £8,137.36 and have made a donation of £30,000 to the Land Trust, a registered charity which works to improve former coalfield sites across Yorkshire.
When officers from the Environment Agency inspected the farm to check compliance with environmental permits they found that excessive amounts of sludge had been imported.
They also found that spreading had occurred to land on a large scale without notification to the Environment Agency. Enquiries revealed that the sewage sludge had not been treated prior to spreading.
When challenged by Environment Agency officers the company eventually stopped operating and all remaining stockpiled sewage sludge was removed. A crop of contaminated peas planted in error by the landowners was destroyed.
The Environment Agency also issued variable monetary penalties totalling over £10,000 to two other companies for breaches of the Nitrate Pollution Prevention Regulation 2015.
Two companies who own the fields in question were issued with Variable Monetary Penalties (VMP) for breaches of the Nitrate Pollution Prevention Regulation 2015.
Sutcliffe Farmers Limited paid £7,521.54 and Senviro Limited paid £2,507.73, with each also paying costs of £8,137.63. A VMP is a proportionate monetary penalty for the more serious cases of non-compliance.
A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said: “We take our responsibility to protect the environment very seriously. Where there is evidence, the Environment Agency uses a full range of enforcement options.
“Enforcement Undertakings allow businesses who fail to comply with legal requirements or pollute the environment to come into compliance.
“The Environment Agency is increasingly using this method of enforcement where there is opportunity to restore and improve the environment, change behaviour and improve practices of the offender.
“We rely on communities to report pollution and environmental issues to us, and urge people to report issues to us on our 24 hour incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60.”
Euan Hall, the chief executive for The Land Trust, said:
“This award has made a huge difference to the sites on our South Yorkshire portfolio.
“We have already been able to deliver a number of projects which have been of huge benefit to the communities that live and work around our sites.
“We are very pleased to have been able to help the Environment Agency undo some of the damage that had been done and make improvements that will benefit the local area for the long-term.”
An enforcement undertaking is available to the EA as an alternative sanction to prosecution or monetary penalty for dealing with certain environmental offences.
It is a legally-binding voluntary agreement proposed by a business (or an individual) when the EA has reasonable grounds to suspect that an environmental offence has occurred.