Fish Legal has secured a £10,000 pay-out for the Tenterden and District Angling and Preservation Association, one of its member clubs, following sewage pollution in 2011 of the New Mill Channel near Tenterden, Kent. Ammonia and sewage sludge were spilled over a five day period into the channel due to the apparent negligent management of Southern Water’s treatment facilities, resulting in fish deaths and a long term loss of amenity for the club.
The Environment Agency advised the club not to fish the waters, and prosecuted Southern Water. However, it failed to conduct a complete or accurate fish kill survey, or involve its own fishery officers in the investigation and, as a result, only recorded five dead fish in its incident report. Club officials had seen first hand that there were much greater losses than that. In fact, the channel was so badly affected that they had to take on a lease at another fishery to maintain membership numbers. Fish Legal, who specialise in bringing claims against polluters on behalf of its angler members, went on to successfully negotiate a £10,000 compensation payment on the club’s behalf.
Having obtained disclosure of the prosecution case file it was clear that a piece of plastic pipework on the sludge recirculation pump had burst causing the spill of sewage sludge. This had resulted from a valve being left closed after maintenance, causing a build-up of pressure which burst the pipe and caused the toxic spill.
Despite refusing to accept liability for the pollution, Southern Water did say, when enclosing the cheque, that:
'Southern Water does as a policy seek to adopt a ‘good neighbour’ approach to its operational sites and where third party damage has occurred because of fault on SWS’s part, seeks to compensate promptly and in full.'
Penelope Gane, at Fish Legal, who conducted the case said:
'Given Southern Water’s poor pollution record, highlighted in a recent Environment Agency report which found that their 'incidents performance and permit compliance need to improve', Fish Legal welcomes the company’s assurances that in future it will fully compensate our members.'
Commenting on the advantages of being a member of Fish Legal, Paul Locks, Chairman of the Tenterden and District Angling and Preservation Association, said:
'I appreciated that as a relatively small angling club we needed the support of legal representation to fight for compensation against a large company. Any angling club who is a member of Fish Legal and who experiences pollution on their waters should not hesitate to seek their guidance.'
The club plan to invest the compensation back into the fishery.