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Updated Jun 24, 2022

Record fine received for environmental offences

Dairy Crest Limited has been fined £1.5 million for environmental offences, receiving the largest ever fine for an Environment Agency conviction in the South West.

The Environment Agency said the company, who are the makers of household brands like Cathedral City cheese, had an unacceptable environmental performance for far too long. Their Davidstow Creamery site near Camelford, North Cornwall, fell well short of the expected standards in terms of their management of liquid waste, odour and environmental reporting.

The site changed production to focus on whey processing to produce powder used in baby milk and other products, but since this change, the effluent being discharged into the River Inny has been more challenging to treat.

An unacceptable level of pollution occurred as a result of the company's failures which caused significant harm to fish and other aquatic wildlife. There were also related issues with foul odours which local residents complained about.

The Environment Agency prosecuted the company for offences which included:

  • on 16 August 2016, releasing a harmful biocide, used to clean the wastewater tanks and pipework, into the river and killing thousands of fish over a 2-kilometre stretch;
  • in July and August 2018, coating the River Inny with a noxious, black sludge for 5 kilometres, through a release of a mass of suspended solids;
  • from 2016 up to 2021, consistently exceeding limits on substances like phosphorous and suspended solids entering the River Inny;
  • numerous leaks of part-treated effluent into nearby watercourses and onto the land;
  • foul odours repeatedly affecting residents over many years;
  • on 7 separate occasions, failing to tell the Environment Agency within 24 hours of when things had gone significantly wrong on site.

Dairy Crest Limited pleaded guilty to 21 of the 27 charges brought against them. They were fined £1.52 million at Truro Crown Court, and have agreed to pay costs of £272,747.

The Area Director of the Environment Agency, Helen Dobby, commented: "As a large and well-established operator, Dairy Crest Limited should be up to the job of maintaining the required environmental standards. Instead, it has over a period of many years failed to comply with its environmental permit and not been able to protect local people and the environment."

"We acknowledge that Dairy Crest Limited has been taking steps to remedy the various problems, but unfortunately, these actions were not swift enough on many occasions and proved to be ineffective in stopping pollution."