The cheesemaker behind Cathedral City has been fined £1.5million for killing fish and sinking houses

Residents were unwell as “egg and fish smells” were reported and thousands of trout were killed as a result of decisions by Davidstow Creamery, Truro Crown Court heard

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Cornwall: Waste from Davidstow Creamery was dumped into the river in 2018

A “bullying” cheesemaker who helps produce Cathedral City has been fined hefty after several years of dumping waste into a river, causing misery to locals.

The dairy’s actions resulted in the deaths of hundreds of fish and left angry residents with a lingering foul odor in their homes.

The stench was so bad that residents suffered from headaches and were unable to use their gardens. living in Cornwall reports.

The company that owns Davidstow Creamery, Dairy Crest Ltd – now known as Saputo Dairy UK – has been fined £1.5million after dumping the waste in the River Inny. They were held responsible for the discharges for several years starting in 2016.

The company was convicted in Truro Crown Court after pleading guilty to 21 counts relating to pollution and odor incidents and permitting violations at Davidstow Creamery.







A worker from the Environment Agency inspects the mouth of the Inny River
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Picture:

Cornwall Live/BPM MEDIA)

Eleven of the allegations acknowledged by the firm relate to the company’s breach of environmental permits when discharging waste into the River Inny.

Other offenses include breaching odor permits and another because the company waited more than a month to notify the Environment Agency of discharge breaches. Thousands of trout died as a result of the events at Davidstow Creamery.

Another charge said the company allowed discharges that resulted in water being toxic or harmful to fish. The Canadian-owned Dairy Crest has since said it has made significant efforts to address the issues at issue in the case.

Delivering the verdict, Judge Simon Carr described the size of the company, saying it was the country’s largest dairy processing facility and one of the largest in Europe. He adds that the dairy works 24 hours a day and employs 195 people.







The company that owns Davidstow Creamery, Dairy Crest Ltd – now known as Saputo Dairy UK – has been heavily fined
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Picture:

Cornwall Live/BPM MEDIA)

Dairy Crest Ltd’s profit was reported at £21m a year after tax. Judge Carr then went on to highlight the company’s shortcomings, saying that it failed to meet effluent limits and permits after deciding to expand its facilities.

Judge Carr highlighted middle and senior management issues and a culture of bullying before saying permits had not been honored for over five years.

He then went on to say that while management was aware of the ongoing issues, the decision was made not to close the site for cleanup work.

Regarding the stench, Judge Carr said: “It is evident that the problem has tainted the lives of people nearby for many years. I read a number of moving statements and people were literally unable to leave their homes. This was a large organization that has been in breach of permits for a significant period of time.”

Judge Carr said management was aware of the solutions proposed by experts but had failed to address the issues and that failure to do so had resulted in “significant damage to local fish stocks”.







For several years, they were responsible for discharge and odor problems that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of fish
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Picture:

Cornwall Live/BPM MEDIA)

Since the site switched production to processing whey, particularly to make powders for baby milk and other products, treating the wastewater discharged into the River Inny has become increasingly difficult. This resulted in unacceptable pollution of the local river, which is a tributary of the River Tamar, and caused significant damage to fish and other aquatic wildlife.

Helen Dobby, Sector Manager at the Environment Agency said: “As a large and established operator, Dairy Crest Limited should be up to the task of meeting the required environmental standards. Instead, for many years it failed to comply with its environmental permit and failed to protect local people and the environment.

“We recognize that Dairy Crest Limited has taken steps to address the various issues, but unfortunately on many occasions these actions have not been prompt enough and have proven ineffective in stopping the pollution.”

The Environment Agency remains deeply concerned about the environmental performance of this site and its impact on the environment. She will continue to monitor the situation and regulate this site closely and urges the operator to make the right decisions and levels of investment on site to better protect the wildlife and people of Cornwall.

The court heard people nearby speaking of how their lives were severely affected by the foul stench emanating from the dairy.

A statement from Mr Potter, who lives in Trewassa, said: “Since 2017 we have had problems with terrible smells and noise from the dairy. It was a bad egg/fish smell and prevented us from being in our garden and meant we had to close the windows as the wind blew towards the bungalow.

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“The odors got worse, giving me and my wife headaches and affecting our eyesight. My son has asthma so we had to get an air purifier so he can breathe indoors.” The odors led to the formation of the Davidstow Residents’ Action Group.

At the sentencing hearing, prosecutor Richard Banwell told the court that the company had placed significant blame on the contractors, but added it was “unthinkable as a legitimate operator of a permit should be able to minimize its guilt”.

The court was shown video footage of a reddish liquid discharge into rivers that was supposed to be clear.

Mr Banwell told the court there is still a charge today, with more recent containment failures being investigated. He added that there were problems with leaks from drainage pipes and above-ground structures. He added that the company showed “negligence” in its actions and “did not exercise reasonable care.”

The sentencing hearing also heard from a whistleblower who worked at the water reclamation system. He spoke of management telling employees to do things differently than before and that the company was using more chemicals when it left than when it started.

He also mentioned finger pointing when things went wrong, missing log sheets, and instances of bullying that even resulted in employees falling ill.

He said the dairy was “a facility that is causing significant problems over a long period of time” and given “a catalog of problems” the environment agency should have been notified of the problems immediately. Cheese production continued during the time recorded by the indictment.

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