Drinks firm pays up over fruity pollution

A soft drinks manufacturer has been fined £6,000 and ordered to pay £2,101 in costs by Pontefract Magistrates Court for leaking a purple, frothy, fruity-smelling discharge into the Wash Dike in West Yorkshire.

Cott Beverages was taken to court by the Environment Agency after officers carrying out a routine inspection last June noticed that the stream near Pontefract was darker than usual.

They followed the leak upstream and discovered it came from the roof of a culvert at the local Cott factory.

Pontefract is a historic market town, but the area is home to various food manufacturers, including a popcorn factory. Cott makes carbonated drinks that go on sale under supermarket own-brand labels.

During the investigation, it emerged that Cott had been dealing with another problem on site and had turned off the effluent pumps, which backed up and overflowed into a surface water drain and then into the stream.

Cott maintains that only 500 litres of waste from its drinks-making process was released into the water.

According to the Environment Agency’s survey team, the stream had already been subjected to long-term organic pollution, but this purple leak added to the problem.

Laurie Williams, the environment officer who dealt with the case, told edie: “The Wash Dyke is a typical urban stream – it is generally of poor quality. There are mainly pollution resistant macro-invertebrates living in the stream. A number of these macro-invertebrates were shown to be wiped out by this pollution event, and would take approximately a couple of months to recover.

“Cott Beverages co-operated fully throughout the investigation. They also made some improvements to the site to prevent the same event from happening again.”

The drinks firm admitted guilt at the first hearing. During the trial, it raised this as a mitigating factor, alongside the fact that it had carried out a survey of its drainage system prior to the accident.

Jess McCabe

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