A major UK supplier of cheddar cheese has been fined £1.5million for poisoning salmon and trout and leaving a Cornwall resident with the ‘fetid’ stench of pollution.
The UK’s biggest cheese factory in Davidstow, Cornwall has polluted the area and was fined seven figures by the Truro Crown Court today.
The factory produces Cathedral City, a brand loved by the Queen, as well as Clover and Country Life butter brands and has a turnover of £451million.
The factory admitted anti-pollution fences over a period of five years between 2016 and 2021, which ruined the lives of residents.
The Canadian-owned company has acknowledged 21 pollution incidents and permit violations that occurred at its Davidstow creamery near Camelford.
The UK’s biggest cheese factory in Davidstow, Cornwall has polluted the area and was fined seven figures at Truro Crown Court today
Pollution incidents led to fish kills in the Inny River in 2016 and 2018.
The river is used for Atlantic salmon farming and is home to native wild brown trout and smaller species such as bullheads and loaches.
But the impact of the incidents was explained in court by local resident Phil Potter, who moved to the Surrey area with his family.
Environment Agency prosecutor Richard Banwell told the judge that since 2017 they had been suffering from “awful smells and more from the factory”.
They live a quarter of a mile from the factory and said the ‘egg fish smells’ meant they couldn’t enjoy their garden and had to close the windows.
But he said the “bad stench” had gotten worse and was even more horrendous, leaving them with headaches and vision problems.
Her son with asthma had an air purifier as odors entered the property through the air vents.
He went to the factory to complain but only got an apology for the problem but no solution.
Another resident, Andrew McKersie, who is part of a local action group complaining about the smell, said: ‘The worst thing is that we usually seem to smell the smell in the middle of the night.
“We’re in bed and suddenly you’re woken up by the stench and then you can’t go back to sleep, so you can’t sleep properly.”
The Environment Agency said the smell came from the sewage treatment plant and ordered the company to reduce odor pollution.
Truro Crown Court heard there had been ‘factory failures’ as well as leaks and spills.
Mr Banwell said the company had failed to notify the Environment Agency of incidents that could have a significant effect on the environment.
Judge Simon Carr intervened and said the Environment Agency did not have the resources to police, but could respond and notification was essential.
Eleven charges relate to breaching environmental permits with dumping waste into the Immy River between December 2015 and January 2021.
Some feeds refer to “biological sludge”, “suspended solids” and “partially treated dairy effluent”.
Two offenses relate to scent violation clearances between June 2016b and June 2020, one charge of waiting over a month in August 2018 to notify EA of the discharge violations.
And another count said the company allowed discharges in August 2016 to such an extent that “the waters were poisonous or harmful to fish or the spawning of food or fish”.
The company has already apologized to EA, the court and the public who were affected.
The company said the breaches occurred after new processes unique to the UK went live.
He said: ‘However, during the commissioning of the new processes, pollution was caused to the local river, the Upper Inny River, and our neighbors experienced unacceptable levels of odor pollution.
The factory produces Cathedral City, a brand beloved by Her Majesty, as well as the Clover and Country Life brands of butter and has a turnover of £451 million.
He said he has undertaken significant work to rectify the “historical issues to which the prosecution relates”.
The company employs 195 people and operates 24 hours a day all year round and buys 1.3 million liters of milk daily from around 370 local farmers.
Judge Simon Carr fined the company a total of £1.52million and said costs of £272,746 had already been paid.
The judge said the company expanded production with a new facility that also produced more effluent.
He said there were problems from the start, but they didn’t shut him down and continued to operate, but did so by violating the boundaries already in place.
He said the smells and odors from the factory were ruining the lives of local residents who worried about the effects on their “health and quality of life”.
Justice Carr said there were senior and middle management failures and a culture of bullying and bullying at the sewage treatment facility.