Abattoir waste liquid ended up in Watton Brook near Saham Toney, Norfolk costing Bowes of Norfolk Ltd a £7,500 fine and £5,888 total costs including Environment Agency clean up costs.

It is the tenth time the company has been convicted of environmental offences and all of them for breaching the same section of the Water Resources Act 1991.

King’s Lynn Magistrates’ Court was told that on this occasion the Environment Agency was notified by Charles Bowes that there was a leak from their irrigation system which is used to spread the liquid waste from the abattoir onto agricultural land.

Officers were shown a pipe with a hole about the size of a tennis ball underneath. The pipe had burst in the night and an automatic closedown system had not been triggered to stop the pumps when the pressure dropped. It is thought that the gauge was not adjusted properly.

The leak was not discovered until the following morning by which time it is estimated that about 100,000 litres of liquid had been lost. A tanker brought in to suck up the waste recovered about 30,000 litres.

As the liquid ran through the hole in the pipe it formed puddles on the field and eventually ran into a ditch and on into the Watton Brook turning it red.

Bowes of Norfolk is a food producer specialising in the production and processing of pork products from premises at Brandon Road, Watton, Thetford. Waste liquid generated in the process is made up of solids from the abattoir combined with pig urine and water which is collected in an underground reservoir and filtered to remove the solids which go for rendering.

The remaining liquid is pumped to lagoons for storage prior to being spread on the land through the pipes of the irrigation system. It was one of these pipes which exploded.

As a result of the pollution 15 fish died and the water quality in Watton Brook was affected for 3.5km. Anglian Water stopped abstracting water for drinking for a week from the River Wissey at Stoke Ferry as a precaution.

Since the incident Bowes has produced written procedures for the irrigation system and there is now a timer so that the pump can be switched off at a set time.

After the hearing Environment Agency officer Eileen Daly said: ‘Fortunately the environmental impact was limited on this occasion but this is not the first time the company has been convicted for breaching the Water Resources Act.

‘The quality of the water in this country is under scrutiny by Europe and it is our role to take action against those who damage that quality or fail to take reasonable steps to make sure that they do not have a negative impact on the environment in which we all live.’

Bowes pleaded guilty to:
1. On or about 5 October 2005 you did cause poisonous, noxious or polluting matter to enter controlled waters, namely a tributary of the Watton Brook at Saham Hall, near Saham Toney, Norfolk, contrary to section 85(1) and section 85(6) Water Resources Act 1991