A COMPANY has been fined after causing an environmental “catastrophe” which killed thousands of fish over several miles of two rivers.

N-Virocycle, which aims to provide an environmentally friendly alternative to fertilis-ation, spread brewery waste on agricultural land at Langho.

Blackburn magistrates were told that the waste collected in a pond and drained away into a ditch which then fed into tributaries of the Calder and Ribble rivers.

Fish and invertebrate life was “wiped out for miles” from Bush Fern Brook and a tributary of Park Brook, the court was told.

N-Virocycle, based in Dursley, Gloucestershire, pleaded guilty to two offences of causing polluting matter to enter the watercourse. It was fined a total of £9,500 and ordered to pay £4,830 in costs.

The company was handling the waste for Interbrew brewery at Samlesbury. The court was told the incident was caused by a failure in management procedures at N-Virocycle.

At the time of the pollution, a £1,000 reward was offered by the Anglers’ Conservation Association to find those responsible.

David Hinks, the chairman of the Ribble Fisheries Association, branded the situation a “catastrophe”.

At court, Jane Morgan, prosecuting on behalf of the Environment Agency, said it was impossible to estimate the exact numbers of fish killed because the incident had sparked a “feeding frenzy” among herons and gulls attracted to the area.

Mrs Morgan said N-Virocycle had registered its activities with the agency but pollution had occurred when they spread on a field which was not part of the registration and which had not been mapped’ for land drains.

She said the brewery waste was highly damaging when it entered the water system and had led to a “significant pollution event.”

Small fish, brown trout and eels had been killed along with invertebrates, including those normally seen as pollution resistant.

Richard Tyler, for the company, said the incident was not as a result of an attempt to increase profit or reduce costs.

He said: “N-Virocycle takes it environmental responsibilities seriously and the whole process allows farmers to fertilise their land using organic materials and reducing the use of inorganic fertilisers. They have been doing this for 10 years.”

He said the mistakes which led to the pollution had been addressed.