OMEX Agriculture Ltd. has been fined £510,190 for wiping out more than 135,000 fish in what the Environment Agency has called one of the “largest environmental incidents ever recorded in Lincolnshire”.
Approximately three million litres of liquid urea ammonium nitrate (UAN) concentrate fertiliser from the Lincolnshire-based company had leaked in the River Witham in 2018, polluting 46km to The Wash at Boston – one of the UK’s most important estuaries for wildlife.
According to the Environment Agency, which brought about the prosecution, the spill was a result of an overground pipe failing.
Impact from the pollution destroyed all invertebrates in the river’s tributaries for more than 23km downstream of the site.
Around 3ha of woodland with ancient woodland characteristics were also damaged with all the trees in the area having to be felled.
After the pollution, the agency and partners worked to mitigate the impacts. They restocked the river with more than 1.5 million fish larvae and 70,000 roach and bream, and continue to work closely with East Lindsey District Council and the Forestry Commission to remedy affected woodland.
“The pollution of the River Witham by OMEX was a devastating event and one of the largest environmental incidents we have seen in Lincolnshire,” Leigh Edlin, Environment Agency area director for Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire, said.
“The Environment Agency has worked tirelessly to undo the damage, introducing thousands of fish, and requiring the polluter, OMEX, to repair the damage that was done.”
The court heard how OMEX, which stores UAN for production of fertilisers, failed to put in place an appropriate maintenance and inspection regime to avoid the catastrophic pollution.
Fertiliser was held in two sealed ‘bladder’ bag lagoons, both holding the equivalent liquid of three Olympic swimming pools, or 7.5 million litres.
OMEX Agriculture, a major manufacturer of liquid fertilisers, pleaded guilty yesterday (Monday, June 12) to the major category 1 pollution incident at its facility at Bardney Airfield, Tupholme, near Bardney, at Lincolnshire Magistrates.