Sussex College Fined £50,000 for Causing Slurry Pollution to Stream

Plumpton College in Sussex has been fined £50,000 for causing pollution to a stream, which resulted  in the deaths of over 1,500 fish. The College, which specialises in teaching agricultural practices, had initially aimed to fertilise a field by spreading water with a significant proportion of cow slurry, but the fertiliser then ran off into ditches and land drains before running into an adjacent stream.

The field could not absorb the amount of slurry that was spread, and with the ground being frozen at the time, the majority of the contaminated water ran into Plumpton Mill Stream. “Poor management, a lack of contingency planning and inadequate infrastructure at the farm resulted in a totally avoidable pollution incident that had a disastrous effect on the local environment.” (Comment – This was clearly negligent conduct  and potentially  bordering on reckless conduct and whilst we do not know how the culpability and harm was categorised it is reasonable to assume negligent /category 2. This categorisation would potentially have involved a custodial sentence for any individuals charged with the offence.

The College conceded the pollution was caused by human error. The employee concerned accepted a formal caution (comment – better than risking a potential custodial sentence!). The College pleaded guilty and was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £44,852 in costs.

For more information on the incident, please click here.