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Sorry, says salad firm after pollution prosecution

By Ben Bouckley , 28-Jul-2011

Wigan-based Hazeldene Foods has been prosecuted by the Environment Agency (EA) after the failure of a factory pump led to pollution of a local angling pond.

An EA spokeswoman said that the blockage and failure of a macerating pump in a sump collecting preparation water led to the prepared salad factory flooding.

The engineering manager on duty that day ordered staff to use a submersible pump to eject water down a nearby surface water drain, she added.

This led to the pollution of Scot Lane New Pond (pictured) near Wigan Athletic F.C’s stadium, which is leased by Wigan and District Angling Association (WDAA) from the city council.

Lee Quibell, EA environment officer, told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “Officers visited … following reports of fish gasping for breath on the surface of the water.

“The EA arranged for aeration equipment to be deployed to the water. However, many fish … were found to have died. If the company had had the appropriate back-up equipment in place on its factory site, then this pollution could have been avoided.”

Out of character

Prosecuted by the EA at Wigan and Leigh Magistrates’ Court, Hazeldene was ordered to pay a £15,000 fine and around £3,500 in costs.

Md Simon Ball said: "We are extremely disappointed to find ourselves in court today and sincerely apologise to the Wigan and District Angling Association."

Ball said that Hazeldene immediately co-operated with the EA and apologised to the association, while also offering to pay compensation of £17,100 to replace fish, and £2,900 to clean up the pond.

“Hazeldene takes its role in the local community very seriously, and, as a further gesture of goodwill, 15 colleagues from the business will commit to one day a year for the next three years doing groundwork for the association as directed in the local area.

“This incident was entirely out of character for us as we pride ourselves on being a responsible business and have an excellent relationship with the community in which we operate.”

Manager disciplined

Ball added:“We have carried out a thorough investigation, which has resulted in us installing new pumps and a silt trap to ensure this can never happen again.”

A spokeswoman for Hazeldene’s parent firm, William Jackson Food Group, said the engineering manager in question had also been disciplined internally for his action.

“The company wants to reiterate the fact that, as soon as it realised something had gone wrong, it went out of its way to put it right,” she said.

The WDAA said in a statement: “We can now confirm that we have been compensated for the fish we lost through pollution at Scot Lane New Pond."