Davidstow Cathedral City cheese firm pollution fine

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'Black sludge' on blue glovesImage source, Environment Agency
Image caption,
'Black sludge' which coated a three-mile river stretch near the plant in 2018

One of the UK's biggest cheddar cheese suppliers has been fined more than £1.5m after admitting a host of pollution and odour charges.

The Dairy Crest Ltd plant at Davidstow, Cornwall, polluted the local area over a five-year period up to 2021, killing fish and creating strong odours.

The firm, which produces Cathedral City, Clover and Country Life, said the issues had been rectified.

It was fined a total of £1.52m at Truro Crown Court on Thursday.

The judge said £272,746 costs had already been paid.

Odours 'gave vision problems'

The court was told there were "plant failures", leaks and overspills at the company site, owned by Saputo Dairy UK.

Dairy Crest had previously admitted 21 of 27 charges, relating to pollution incidents and permit breaches, which were brought by the Environment Agency (EA).

Image caption,
Fish were killed in nearby rivers due to the pollution

The court heard the incidents led to odours so bad that they stopped local residents from sleeping, leaving them with headaches and vision problems.

Waste was also discharged several times into the River Inny, killing fish.

The river is used for breeding Atlantic salmon and is home to native wild brown trout and smaller species like bullheads and loaches.

Image caption,
The Davidstow plant is where the well-known Cathedral City cheese is manufactured

Prosecuting, Richard Banwell from the EA said the firm failed to notify the agency about incidents.

The firm previously said the offences arose after commissioning new processes, unique in the UK.

Following the hearing, a company spokesperson said: "Once again, the company would like to express its sincere apologies to those who have been affected.

They added that "considerable work has been undertaken to rectify the historic issues to which the prosecution related" and that the company "remains committed to supporting its local communities and becoming a better neighbour".

The biggest employer in north Cornwall, it employs 195 workers and operates 24 hours a day, buying 1.3 million litres of milk from around 370 local farmers daily.

Sentencing, Judge Simon Carr said there were problems from the start but Dairy Crest continued to operate.

He also said there were senior and middle management failures and a culture of bullying and intimidation at the firm's waste water facility.

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