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The Jubilee River story - Environment Agency apologises for fish kill pollution

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10 June 2006

Environment Agency apologises for fish kill pollution


Paul Gainey

Date published:



Prosecution, fish, Barle


The Environment Agency has unreservedly apologised after work being carried out on its behalf by a contractor killed hundreds of fish in a tributary of the River Exe in Somerset last year.  The Agency was ordered to pay a total of £8966 in fines and costs today at Exeter Crown Court.

A 150 metre stretch of river was affected around Friday, 2 September 2005 when water containing concrete was pumped into the River Barle from a gauging station construction site.  Around 300 dead fish were found mainly bullheads but also including some salmon, trout, loach and grayling.

The work was being done for the Environment Agency by one of its national contractors, May Gurney Ltd. 

An earlier hearing at Cullompton magistrates court on April 10, 2006 heard both defendants plead guilty to causing polluting matter to enter the River Barle contrary to Section 4 of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975.  The case, which was brought privately by River Exe riparian owner Ian Cook, was referred to crown court for sentencing.

Today Judge Jeremy Griggs heard how the Environment Agency immediately instructed all work on the site to stop and investigated the pollution.  It found concrete grout had got into pumps on the construction site and untreated water had been pumped back into the river.

‘We unreservedly apologise for this incident.  We deeply regret the pollution and fish kill particularly as our whole business is about protecting and improving the environment. Our daily work is along the riverbank and we strive to do this to the highest standards,’ said Martin Weiler for the Environment Agency. 

‘We have learned lessons and improved our procedures and practices for managing contractors.  Our surveys show the river has made a very good recovery with a healthy population of fish and other river life now present in the affected area.’

Sentencing Judge Griggs said that it was clearly very serious and the Agency was ashamed and embarrassed.  It accepted liability was strict and had no option but to plead guilty and gave credit for that.  He accepted damage had not proved widespread or long-standing.

The Environment Agency was fined £7,500 plus £1,466 costs.   Its contractor, May Gurney Ltd, was fined  £27,500 plus £1,466 costs.

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Original page  10/6/06 - Environment Agency apologises for fish kill pollution