LacPatrick Dairies appeared in Coleraine Magistrates Court today facing charged of causing a pollution discharge.
The Northern Irish dairy company pleaded guilty to the charges and were subsequently handed down a fine of £5,000 (€5,666). The charges came after water quality inspectors found during inspections between July 2015 and April 2016 that they were causing pollution in a local waterway.
Acting on behalf of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Inspectors examined an inspection chamber at the LacPatrick Anaerobic Digester site in Coleraine. The found grey fungus in the chamber and a strong smell of silage from the water. A sample was then taken from the chamber, with green dye added to the chamber to observe whether it affected the waterway, which it did.
The site was revisited in November 2015, again with a silage odour detected. Another statutory sample was taken, while inspectors also met with the Chief Executive of the company.
During another visit on 26 January 2016, inspectors observed grey fungus in a channel at the bottom of the chamber. An odour of silage effluent was again detected from this chamber. Another statutory sample was collected, while inspectors examined a storm grating where green tracing dye was added. The inspectors left the site and proceeded to examine the waterway. Extensive grey fungus and sludge worms were discovered. Green tracing dye was observed actively discharging into the waterway, proving continuity between the storm grating and the digester tank.
The final visit from inspectors took place on 15 April 2016. The inspectors collected a statutory sample from the inspection chamber as the Inspector suspected the discharge from the chamber constituted an offence under the Water (NI) Order 1999.
The samples taken during this investigation confirmed that the discharges contained poisonous, noxious or polluting matter which was potentially harmful to fish life in the receiving waterway.
This ongoing pollution was the result of defective silage storage structures on site at the LacPatrick AD site.