Flamingo Flowers continually polluted Childers South Drove at Spalding when they poured a flower nutrient chemical mix into a surface water drain, the town’s magistrates were told today (Tues).

An investigation in June last year came up with evidence that it had been going on for at least a year because the company at Fulney Nurseries, Rangell Gate was ignorant as to its effect on the environment.

Spalding Magistrates’ Court fined Flamingo Flowers £3,000 and ordered them to pay full Environment Agency costs of £4,337.

The stream was grossly polluted for about 1.5 kilometres and the only things left alive were a few highly pollution-tolerant species. Immediately downstream of the discharge only dead invertebrates of three extremely pollution-tolerant groups were found.

It was calculated that between 5,000 to 15,000 litres a day of the waste liquid had been poured into the slow-flowing watercourse after it had been used to feed and preserve flowers while they were stored before being made into bouquets.

Company drainage plans quite clearly showed that the liquid waste outlet was connected to a surface water drain.
The liquid waste was moderately high in organic matter being only a bit less harmful than crude untreated sewage. This leads to a lowering of oxygen levels in the water and measurements in the drove showed levels as low as 9% when they should have been about 70%. Course fish can suffocate at low dissolved oxygen levels.

When interviewed by Environment Agency officers, company representatives David Brown and Chris Gilbertwood admitted that they did not have safety data sheets for some of the chemicals they use. They wrongly applied the advice given in a data sheet of a similar chemical to the one that was the chief cause of the pollution.

But even that sheet stated that the liquid should not be allowed to enter surface water or groundwaters and that spills should be absorbed with a liquid binding material. A neutralising agent should also have been used for the offending chemical Chrysal Clear RVB, labelled as being ‘harmful to aquatic organisms’ as it ‘may cause long term adverse effects in the aquatic environment’.

Magistrates were told that during that time the company also saved money by not having to pay for either a treatment plant and discharge consent or to have the waste taken away.

As soon as the offence was pointed out to the company they stopped discharging into the water and had the waste liquid taken away in tankers.

Flamingo Flowers pleaded guilty to: On or about 23 June 2006 you did cause poisonous, noxious or polluting matter to enter controlled waters, namely a drain at Childers South Drove, Low Fulney, Spalding, contrary to section 85(1) and section 85(6) Water Resources Act 1991.

After the hearing investigating Environment Agency officer Graham Cantellow said: ‘This pollution happened because chemical solution was deliberately disposed of over a long time into the surface water drain which discharges into a watercourse.

‘Flamingo Flowers were in possession of material safety data sheets for the chemicals, which were stored in containers bearing labels describing the adverse effects they could have on the water environment. This information was ignored and a disposal system was installed to direct the chemicals to the nearest watercourse.

‘I hope this case sends out a message to other companies who seek to employ a method of disposal that pollutes the environment that it is not acceptable. A quick glance at the Environment Agency’s publication ‘Pollution Prevention Pays, Getting Your Site Right’ could have prevented this unfortunate incident and the impact on the environment.’