A Morpeth property developer has been fined £15,000 after it admitted polluting a stretch of the River Blyth – for the second time in under 12 months.

Hartford Hall Estate Ltd, in Eshott, Morpeth appeared at Bedlington magistrates court yesterday (4.6).

The case was brought by the Environment Agency and the company was ordered to pay £2225.16 court costs.

Ms Jill Fogg, prosecuting for the Environment Agency told the court that officers received a complaint from a resident in June 2006 that there was a black substance into the River Blyth coming from Hartford Hall Estate.

An Environment Agency officer attended the scene and noticed a strong sewage odour as she walked towards the river from the estate’s own sewage treatment works.

The plant treats sewage from properties on the estate and can be discharged into the River Blyth under conditions stipulated by the Environment Agency in a Discharge Consent permit.

Ms Fogg said that a sample of the discharge from the sewage treatment works showed that the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) was 198 milligrammes per litre – five times the level of BOD which is allowed in the estate’s Discharge Consent.

The BOD is material which is broken down by bacteria. During this process it removes oxygen from the water which is needed to sustain life. The higher the BOD the less the oxygen present in the water and the greater the pollution, and the risk to plants and wildlife.

Magistrates heard that the high BOD was indicative of poorly treated sewage effluent which affected around five metres of water around the discharge point. However Environment Agency officers found no evidence that the pollution had damaged the river’s wildlife.

In interview, company representative Ho Sanderson told Environment Agency officers that a routine inspection of the sewage works in May uncovered a problem and although the estate contacted its maintenance contractors, they did not attend until June 2 – a day after the Environment Agency attended the scene.

In mitigation, the firm said it had been concerned about the delay but it had no real concern because an alarm which signalled a problem with the discharge had not sounded.

Magistrates heard that Hartford Hall Estate Ltd was prosecuted by magistrates at Bedlington in October 2006 for polluting the same watercourse on September 7, 2005.
The company was fined £12,000 after they failed to act promptly to rectify a problem with the sewage treatment works.

Speaking after the case, Environment Agency environment management team leader David Edwardson said: “It is vital that companies help to protect the environment. In this case Hartford Hall Estate Ltd failed to act swiftly to deal with any pollution despite knowing the consequences of its actions. Their response was not good enough and the seriousness of this offence was recognised by the magistrates who showed that companies cannot afford to be careless with the environment.”

Hartford Hall Estate Ltd was charged that:

On or before 1st June 2006 did cause polluting matter, namely untreated sewage effluent, to enter controlled water, namely River Blyth at Bedlington.

Contrary to Section 85(1) and 85(6) of the Water Resources Act 1991