A South Devon caravan park has been ordered to pay £33,089 in fines and costs for polluting a tributary of the River Dart with sewage.
The case was brought by the Environment Agency.
The operators of the Falcon and Hillside Park, Totnes Road, Paignton continued to discharge poor quality sewage effluent into the Longcombe Stream despite repeated requests from the Environment Agency to improve the site’s sewage treatment plant.
A local farmer said cattle kept in a field close to the caravan park refused to drink from the stream and he had to provide them with an alternative water supply.
The previous owners of the site had permission to discharge treated sewage effluent into the Longcombe Stream that flows across farmland down to the River Dart near Totnes. This permission is known as a ‘consent’. In 2008 the new owners of the site, Hatchmere Park Ltd, were warned by the Environment Agency that the treatment plant wasn’t operating properly and was causing pollution.
In 2009 and 2010 the Agency took a series of formal effluent samples at the caravan park to monitor the performance of its sewage treatment works. All four samples failed including one ‘massive’ failure. The owners were told they were contravening conditions of the site’s consent.
In October 2009 an Agency officer inspected the site and, once again, saw evidence of poor maintenance. A ditch close to the effluent discharge point was ‘black and putrid’ and there was a thick accumulation of brown sewage sludge at the point where the ditch joined the Longcombe Stream. Sewage-related debris (sanitary wastes) were visible around the discharge pipe.
When the officer entered the sewage plant compound he found signs of inadequate treatment including poor settlement, abnormal foaming on the surface of the effluent and a build up of sludge in the final chamber.
The Agency issued Hatchmere Park Ltd with an Anti-Pollution Works Notices to encourage the company to carry out the necessary improvements and safeguard the environment.
In October 2011 an officer returned to the site to see if the owners had complied with the anti-pollution notice. He found there had been no improvement in the performance of the sewage treatment plant. Sewage fungus, a sign of chronic pollution, was clearly visible in the Longcombe Stream.
‘The current owner failed to improve the performance of the treatment plant at this site despite receiving guidance, encouragement and advice from the Agency over a number of years. In-action on the part of the site operator resulted in continued illegal discharges of sewage into a rural stream. In the end we were left with no choice other than to prosecute,’ said Pete Ball for the Environment Agency.
‘The River Dart is used extensively for recreation and is also an important habitat for salmon and sea trout. It is also used as a commercial shellfishery so it is important tributaries such as the Longcombe Stream are safeguarded from pollution,’ said Pete Ball.
Appearing before Torbay magistrates Hatchmere Park Ltd, of Nottingham Road, Sedgebrook, Grantham, Lincolnshire, was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £13,089 costs after pleading guilty to three offences of discharging without a permit and non-compliance with two notices.
Magistrates also ordered the company to carry out improvements works to ensure it complies with the Anti-Pollution Notices by March 31, 2013.