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Processor Fined for Taking Excess Water Just Ahead of Drought

7 August 2012, at 8:04a.m.

UK - Chicken processor Moy Park has admitted taking too much water for processing at its factory in Anwick, near Sleaford, Lincolnshire.

Lincoln Magistrates’ Court this week (6 August) fined the company £12,000 after hearing that it had taken 17 per cent more than its annual allowance from two groundwater boreholes between March 2010 and April 2011 – just months before the area was declared to be in drought.

Records showed that the company had taken more water than it was allowed on more than half the days of the year.

Mrs Claire Corfield, prosecuting for the Environment Agency, said Moy Park had been told several times in 2009 that it would not allow an increase in yearly abstraction amounts under its licence. “The company was aware of the limits of the licence,” she told the court.

She said the company had saved money by not taking the extra water from a mains supplied by Anglian Water. The company failed to attend an interview with the Environment Agency.

Mrs Corfield told magistrates that Moy Park had applied for a new replacement borehole at Anwick in June 2009 with a proposal to increase the daily amount of water it could abstract. The company was told that no increase to the annual amount of 700,000 cubic metres could be considered.

In a letter the Agency stated: “Our current water resources policy is that no new licences or increases to existing licences will be granted.”

She told the court the Lincolnshire Limestone was already under pressure and no extra water could be taken as it would compromise resources for the future.

The company was also ordered to pay full Environment Agency costs of £3,085.

Mark Watson for the company told the court that the breach was not deliberate and arose as a result of carelessness. The company had failed to reconcile monthly usage figures from the boreholes and compare these with the licence limits. The company has taken steps to ensure no repeat occurrence.

He asked the court to take into account a further offence, also concerning the taking of more than the annual allowance for water, when it abstracted 2 per cent more than its licence allowed for 2011-12.

After the hearing Environment Agency officer Helen Woodall said: “Mains water was available to the Moy Park site and the company should have paid for any extra water it needed.

“Water is a precious resource which is already under pressure and we aim to ensure that water companies, farmers and industry do not take too much from our rivers.

“We are leading a review of abstraction licences to make sure they aren't causing environmental damage.”