A court heard how more than 100 trout died after leachate escaped from Connon Bridge Landfill site near Liskeard.
Connon Bridge receives household waste from all over Cornwall and operates under a Pollution Prevention Control permit issued by the Environment Agency. At the time of the offence County Environmental Services operated a leachate treatment plant at the site.
On October 16, 2006 a leachate tank overflowed causing liquid to escape into a culvert leading to the Connon Stream. Leachate is the liquid produced by decomposing waste and is highly toxic to fish. County Environmental Services did not immediately report the spill. The Environment Agency was alerted by a member of the public.
The Connon Stream is a high quality river with a population of brown trout.
The river also contains salmon and bullhead, a rare fish protected under the European Habitat Directive.
A total of 102 dead trout and six bullheads were found immediately downstream of the point where the leachate entered the river. The spill was caused by human error. By co-incidence a second pollution incident was discovered on the same river from an unrelated source the day after the landfill incident. Most of the dead fish were found between the leachate entry point and the point where the second pollution entered the Connon Stream.
Water samples taken from the stream contained levels of ammonia, suspended solids and chloride well above legal limits. In the case of ammonia, the concentration was more than 50 times the permitted discharge level (226mg/l instead of 4mg/l).
Connon Bridge Landfill is no longer operated by Count Environmental Services. The site is now run by SITA Ltd on behalf of Cornwall County Council.
‘This was a serious pollution incident that resulted in a significant loss of fish on an important river. The loss of leachate from the site could have been avoided had the operator taken the necessary steps to ensure any leachate was safely contained within the treatment facility in the event of a spill,’ said Rob Hocking for the Environment Agency.
County Environmental Services were today fined £15,000 and ordered to pay
£2,264 costs by East Cornwall Magistrates sitting in Bodmin after pleading guilty to three offences under the Water Resources Act 1991 including causing poisonous, noxious or polluting matter to enter controlled waters from its site at Connon Bridge, East Taphouse, Liskeard.
The company also admitted contravening its waste management licence by failing to surround its leachate treatment tanks with impermeable walls and failing to notify the Environment Agency after the leachate escaped.