The maker of Cathedral City cheese has been fined £1.5m for allowing 'foul' stinking waste to pour into a nearby river causing terrible environmental damage.

Dairy Crest, which was visited by Boris Johnson last year, was fined by judge Simon Carr at Truro Crown Court this afternoon. The company has already had to pay over £72,400 in costs.

Dairy Crest based at Camelford, where it is a large local employer, had pleaded guilty to 21 counts relating to pollution charges as well as breaches of environmental permits.

The pollution offences took place at the Dairy Crest-owned Davidstow Creamery where waste was discharged into the River Inny and caused the death of a large number of fish.

Falmouth Packet:

Black sludge which coated the River Inny for three miles in the summer of 2018


The company also pleaded guilty to environmental permit breaches by waiting over a month to inform the Environment Agency about the waste discharges as well as breaching odour permits, with residents in the area being subjected to pungent smells from its waste water treatment plant.

In his summing up His honour Judge Carr said the discharge into the river had "blighted the lives" of those who lived nearby and killed thousands of fish.

He said the odour was "so bad" that sometimes people were unable to leave their houses. "Those living nearby knew they were smelling foul discharge," he said.

He blamed a "poor management culture" and intimidation and bullying by the line manager meant employees didn't feel they could report their concerns.

One employee was so concerned by what he saw he filmed one of the effluent tanks which should have been monitored for quality. The monitor was taken out of the effluent screen and placed in a bucket of clean water.

This meant that there was no accurate monitoring of the discharge which purported to show no discharge at all

He said it was an issue that should have been addressed by senior management but any remedial work would have had a severe financial impact on the company

Previously, the court heard from the defence how Dairy Crest "was a company with no previous convictions" and had "never been convicted of any environmental offences."

The defence also spoke about how the company had taken over its waste treatment plant in 2016 from another company and had also gone "out of its way to secure a contract to ensure the waste water plant was working properly."

The company's defence said that they were told that the equipment they were using would do it.

The court also heard how the company was deeply remorseful about the offences and that there was "no doubt this aspect of the business had been a complete disaster for the company in what is a chaotic market."

The Environment Agency said the environmental performance of Dairy Crest Limited, now known as Saputo Dairy UK, had been unacceptable for too long and needs to significantly improve,

Dairy Crest Limited and its management of the Davidstow Creamery had been falling way short of the standards expected by the Environment Agency when it comes to the company’s management of liquid waste, odour and environmental reporting.   

The Environment Agency said ever since the site changed production to focus on whey processing, particularly to produce powder used in baby milk and other products, the effluent being discharged into the River Inny has been more challenging to treat.

This has resulted in unacceptable pollution of the local river, which is a tributary of the River Tamar, causing significant harm to fish and other aquatic wildlife. 

The offences included:  

Releasing a harmful biocide, used to clean the wastewater tanks and pipework, into the river and killing thousands of fish over a 2km stretch on 16 August 2016.   

Coating the River Inny with a noxious, black sludge for 5km in 2018, through a release of a mass of suspended solids in July and August 2018.  

Consistently exceeding limits on substances like phosphorous and suspended solids entering the River Inny, from 2016 up to 2021.  

Numerous leaks of part-treated effluent into nearby watercourses and onto the land.  

Foul odours repeatedly affecting residents over many years.  

Failing to tell the Environment Agency within 24 hours of when things had gone significantly wrong on site, on 7 separate occasions.  

Helen Dobby, Area Director of the Environment Agency, said: “As a large and well-established operator, Dairy Crest Limited should be up to the job of maintaining the required environmental standards. Instead, it has over a period of many years failed to comply with its environmental permit and not been able to protect local people and the environment.  

“We acknowledge that Dairy Crest Limited has been taking steps to remedy the various problems, but unfortunately, these actions were not swift enough on many occasions and proved to be ineffective in stopping pollution.”  

The Environment Agency says it remains deeply concerned about the environmental performance of this site and its impact on the environment.

It says it will continue to monitor the situation and regulate this site closely and urged the operator to make the right decisions and level of investment on site to better protect the wildlife and people of Cornwall.

 In a statement, Dairy Crest offered its “sincere apologies” 

“Once again, the company would like to express its sincere apologies to those who have been affected. Considerable work has been undertaken to rectify the historic issues to which the prosecution related. The company continues to invest significant resources in the best technology, processes and people to further improve its environmental performance and minimise its impact on the local community.”