£12k fine for rabbit hole silt spill

A company operating an Essex gravel quarry has been fined £12,000 after silt it spilt clogged a waterway and it failed to notify the Environment Agency after discovering the problem.

Brett Lafarge Ltd was also ordered to pay costs of £4114 at Havering Magistrates Court after pleading guilty to causing polluting matter to enter controlled waters.

While the silt is not toxic it is still classified as a pollutant as it damages biodiversity by clogging the gills of fish and smothering the beds of rivers and streams, suffocating the invertebrates which live there.

The offending site, Fairlop Quarry, is at Little Heath near Romsford.

The court heard how silt that should have been piped to a storage lagoon had escaped via a worn coupling, which had not been properly checked by the company.

It had leaked into a rabbit hole and found a way through the warren into an adjacent water course, Hogs Hill Ditch, a tributary to Seven Kings Water.

The silt was over a foot deep as it entered the ditch and was still apparent 1.5km away.

An ecological survey showed that fish and invertebrate life in Hog Hill Ditch had been detrimentally affected but that in Seven Kings Water it had not.

The problem was discovered last November during a routine visit from an Environment Agency officer, who spotted the spill.

The company admitted it had discovered the spill three days prior to the visit but had failed to inform the agency.

It also claimed that the site supervisor had taken preventative measures to stop the silt causing further damage but the environment officer saw no evidence of this when she visited.

The removal of silt and clean-up operation only began after the officer discovered the pollution and took approximately four weeks to conclude.

Environment officer Elaine Campbell said: “Brett Lafarge is a repeat offender with regards to silt pollution of our watercourses.

“We hope that they will learn from their previous mistakes and in future put in place effective and timely prevention measures.”

Sam Bond

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