The incident was contested by the Environment Agency, Lancashire County Council and numerous public bodies, after an unauthorised water discharge activity left many residents having to leave homes due to odours coming from the local sewage network.
Tesco was fined a total of £8m, split into a £5m fine for the health and safety offence and a £3m fine for the environmental offence. The Environment Agency’s investigation into the incident found that Tesco had failed to address a “known issue” with part of a fuel delivery system. This, according to the Agency, was compounded by inadequate alarm systems and emergency response actions.
Mark Easedale, The Environment Agency’s Environment Manager said, “This pollution incident had a dramatically negative impact on the local community and the environment with Langwood Brook and the River Irwell severely affected. A week after the pollution incident an investigation by Environment Agency officers found fish populations in the River Irwell immediately downstream of Langwood Brook were around 90% lower than those found upstream. The sentencing sends out a clear message to anyone whose recklessness causes serious pollution to the environment – we will be relentless in our investigations and take action wherever needed.”
The incident, which took place between 2nd-3rd July 2014, led to approximately 23,500 litres of petrol leaking from a filling tank at a Tesco-operated petrol station in Haslingden, Lancashire. Around 7,000 litres of petrol were recovered at the site, but the remainder seeped into the sewer system and a nearby watercourse. Samples taken from the river found traces of oil at least three miles downstream and more than 40 dead fish were found. Residents within a 1km radius from the station had to seek medical attention as a result of odours escaping from the sewers.
Tesco pleaded guilty to the offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act. Lancashire County Council criticised the response time to halting the leak, which took more than 24 hours. Tesco was also ordered to pay more than £57,000 in costs, plus several other compensation payments to affected local residents.
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