Cambridge Rugby Football Club allowed highly polluting sewage to get into a nearby stream despite a warning from the Environment Agency after a previous incident.

At Ely Magistrates’ Court today (Tues) the club was fined £3,500 and ordered to pay £2,277 costs for polluting the Ful Brook which runs past its pavilion before joining the Bin Brook. Bin Brook then flows into the centre of Cambridge where it joins the River Cam.

An Environment Agency officer first brought the pollution to the attention of the club in February 2005 after it was discovered that the brook was a milky colour with a faint hydrogen sulphide smell.

An officer found that a pipe from the club’s septic tank ran into the stream but she was assured that the problem would soon be resolved when the pavilion was connected to the foul sewer. She was assured that the pipe would be plugged until then.

The club confirmed in May that the overflow had been sealed and that the septic tank was being regularly monitored. They also stated that an experienced environmental person had been employed to look at sewage disposal options.

20 months later a local resident complained of a powerful smell of sewage coming from Ful Brook which runs past her back garden. She claimed that the smell was particularly bad after a function had been held at the rugby club.

An Environment Agency officer investigated the complaint and found that the stream was grey for about 200m and smelt strongly of hydrogen sulphide. The bed of the stream was black and anoxic (lacking in oxygen) and sewage fungus was growing at the top end of the stream.

There was a pipe at the same location leading into the stream as there had been in February 2005 and a green dye test soon proved that liquid from the septic tank was running from it into the stream.

Environmental tests showed ammonia levels at around 100mg/l, 100 times higher than an unpolluted stream. Any measure above 5mg/l is highly toxic to fish and invertebrates.

The only things found living in 300 metres of the stream were rat-tailed maggots, midge larvae and other pollution tolerant species. The results showed that there were clear signs of longer-term pollution.

At a formal interview representatives from the rugby club said the pavilion had been connected to a foul sewer but the sewer was too small to cope with the volume and it overflowed from a manhole so Anglian Water had made the club sever the connection.

They claimed they had capped off the septic tank pipe into the stream but could not say how the cap had been removed. They said the septic tank had been more frequently emptied in recent months.

Magistrates were told that extensions to the pavilion between May and December 2005 had resulted in the pavilion having two kitchens, three bars, 30 showers, five toilets and five urinals. During the rugby season around 250 people used the pavilion most weekends and it was also leased out for private functions about twice a month.

After the hearing Environment Agency officer Joanne Glynn said: ‘Sewage pollution can cause problems for watercourses, both for the species living there and for the amenity value for people living by or using the area.

‘Sites should ensure they have appropriate systems in place to deal with their sewage requirements, and that these systems are inspected and maintained regularly. We will take action where it is found that this has not been the case and that it has resulted in pollution.’

Cambridge Rugby Football Club Ltd, of Wests Renault Park, Grantchester Road, Cambridge.
Pleaded guilty to:
On or about 2 November 2006 you did cause or knowingly permit  poisonous, noxious or polluting matter to enter controlled waters, namely a tributary of Bin Brook known as The Ful Brook adjacent to the Cambridge Rugby Football Club Ground, Grantchester Road, Cambridge.

Contrary to section 85(1) and section 85(6) Water Resources Act 1991