Fish Legal has sent a ‘letter before action’ to Multiroof Building Products Ltd (MBPL) claiming compensation for its member club Todmorden Angling Society (TAS). The letter claims compensation for the pollution suffered in May 2012 after a massive fire and series of explosions led to a significant fish kill from a resulting solvent spill. The pollution entered Grove Lodge, a coarse fishery owned and operated by TAS at Littleborough in Lancashire. It is one of TAS’s most popular fisheries.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) estimates that around 95,000 tonnes of combustible fluids were on site when the fire started at MBPL’s factory where MBPL made bitumen products. Smoke from the fire could be seen for miles around and caused dozens of homes to be evacuated while fire services tackled the blaze.

The fire burned MBPL’s factory almost to the ground (it has since been demolished), caused solvent to enter Grove Lodge (killing many of the fish), caused a strong smell of solvent and made fishing impossible.

An MBPL employee was injured and MBPL pleaded guilty to, and was fined for, an offence under Health & Safety legislation.

In stark contrast to the HSE prosecution, local anglers have been badly let down by the Environment Agency (EA), which refused to undertake a fish kill assessment, then gave a range of different excuses for failing to do so. The EA also failed to prosecute the polluter, possibly because MBPL indicated that it would not rebuild the factory or trade there again, although the specific reasons for the EA’s failure to prosecute remain unclear.

The EA concluded that water discharge offences had been committed under Environmental Permitting Regulations, and had caused “significant fish mortality”, but decided to give MBPL only a written warning.

Fish Legal’s letter claims damages for the fish kill, loss of amenity, loss of membership and day tickets, as well as legal costs.

Cameron Hogg, Solicitor at Fish Legal, said

“We hope that the EA’s failure to investigate pollution incidents properly is a thing of the past, following its acceptance of Fish Legal’s investigation of its performance in 2013, but we fear the worst after recent cutbacks. Our member club has had a fairly torrid time, but hopefully compensation will make up for some of the worst effects of the pollution and help them to try and put it behind them and restore their damaged fishery.”

Mark Lloyd, CEO of Fish Legal and the Angling Trust, said

“Although this incident was an accident, companies need to know that one of the consequences of accidents is that they could face prosecution for environmental, as well as health and safety, offences. We hope that the EA will in future take a tougher stance in situations like this and that a full and proper assessment of damage to fisheries will be undertaken. Fish Legal will fight for maximum compensation for its club and fishery members who suffer from pollution incidents to punish the offenders and contribute to the restoration of the water environment.”