Last reviewed 7 April 2021

Pretoria Energy, a company that uses crops to produce energy, has been fined almost £27,000 after an “extremely harmful” and corrosive liquid polluted a tributary of the River Cam.

Cambridge Magistrates’ Court heard that in May 2018, silage liquor, created when the crops are in storage, seeped through poorly maintained drains from Pretoria’s site into a tributary of the River Cam. The pollution was evident for nearly half a mile.

While silage, or compressed crops, is being stored, it produces a liquor with highly elevated nutrient levels. If discharged into the environment, it is extremely harmful, especially to fish and other water life.

Investigating Environment Agency officers took samples of silage effluent in the water and found the water “coal black” in colour. The Environment Agency told the court subsequent investigations found the drains were in such a poor state of repair that the silage liquor was able to escape from cracks around the drainage channels and follow the path of the drains to the discharge point.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching regulation 12(1)(b) of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016.

Businesses are reminded of their duties relating to discharges to sewer and should check drains regularly for blockages or leaks and to clear or repair them to prevent pollution.