A retired garden nursery owner has been prosecuted after illegally tipping waste herbicides and pesticides on ground at a plant nursery site in Somerset.

Michael Cheadle, of Somerset, has been left with a bill totalling £27,000 after the chemicals entered a stream and killed more than 270 fish.

Following a report of dead fish in a watercourse known as the London Cross tributary near Taunton, in September 2017, investigating Environment Agency officers found dead lamprey, bullhead, brown trout, eels, freshwater shrimps and other aquatic invertebrates that are food for fish. They followed the trail of dead fish and invertebrates upstream to some pipes draining into a ditch.

Cheadle admitted disposing of a total of six chemicals at the site including a fungicide called Amistar that is highly toxic to aquatic life. He told officers he had burnt the empty pesticide containers on a bonfire. Water samples taken from the ditch and stream also contained Lindane, a persistent insecticide that is toxic to humans.

The investigation revealed there was a land drain beneath the gravel where Cheadle disposed of the waste pesticides allowing the chemicals direct access to the ditch and nearby stream. A biological survey confirmed the pollution had significantly impacted approximately two miles of watercourse. Some of the species affected, including eels and lamprey, are endangered.

In mitigation, Cheadle has shown remorse and undertaken all remedial measures asked of him to make sure there were no lasting effects from the chemicals. In addition, he had paid more than £25,000 to the Environment Agency to cover its investigation costs.

At Taunton Magistrates’ Court, Cheadle was fined £1130 and ordered to pay £747 costs after pleading guilty to two charges of discharging polluting matter to the stream and the improper disposal of waste pesticide containers.

Business owners are reminded that hazardous chemicals must be treated as such when being disposed of, and they are advised to contact a waste company specialising in hazardous waste.

Last reviewed 25 September 2019