Potato factory donates £14k to charity after polluting river

The Albert Bartlett potato processing factory at Worsted Albert Bartlett factory formally Heinz in Worsted.Picture: MARK

The Albert Bartlett potato factory at Worstead has donated £14,000 to charity after polluting a river during factory cleaning - Credit: Archant

A Norfolk potato firm has agreed to donate £14,000 to a conservation charity to make amends for polluting a nearby stream with factory "sludge".

Albert Bartlett and Sons was found to have allowed sludge to enter the waterways after routine weekend cleaning of its factory at Worstead, near North Walsham, in September 2019.

The Environment Agency (EA) said a lack of monitoring meant the sludge was not detected and was pumped away, through a network of tanks, to eventually discharge into the Smallburgh Stream, which flows into the River Ant.

The river Ant at How Hill, bathed in Winter sunlight.

Potato firm Albert Bartlett has donated £14,000 to charity after polluting a tributary of the River Ant during factory cleaning - Credit: Marion Green / iWitness24

Following an EA investigation, the company offered to pay £14,000 to the Norfolk Rivers Trust, in what is known as an "enforcement undertaking".

The agency accepted the offer in recognition of mitigating factors including "that the pollution was limited and had no lasting impact on the stream, that the discharge was the result of negligence rather than dangerous or foolhardy behaviour, and that the company had since spent a lot of money on infrastructure and systems improvement to prevent a recurrence".

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EA environment officer Stephen Grice, who was involved in the investigation, said: "It is important that all companies take action to avoid polluting the environment through careful consideration of their processes and procedures, and the monitoring of their operations.

"In this case, Albert Bartlett and Sons fully cooperated with the investigation and gave frank and helpful information to the investigators."

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The money will be used to support the Norfolk Rivers Trust’s work to create aquatic habitats, conservation and restoration, education, and providing advice on land management and farming.

Enforcement undertakings allow companies and individuals to make amends for breaching environmental regulations, including through a financial contribution to an environmental project.

To agree this type of civil sanction, the Environment Agency must be satisfied the offender will make changes to its operations, to prevent future breaches of permitting legislation.

But the agency says it will continue to prosecute organisations and individuals "where evidence shows high levels of culpability and serious environmental harm".

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