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Tesco fined £8m for polluting River with petrol

Photo: MEN Syndication

Tesco has been fined a massive £8m after admitting polluting the River Irwell with thousands of litres of petrol.

The incident, which occurred in July 2014, saw a major leak from a filling tank at a store in Haslingden.

Credit: MEN Syndication

More than 40 dead fish, including brown trout, were found within 1.5 miles of where the pollution entered the water and anglers reported dead fish in Bury, more than six miles downstream.

It sparked a huge clean-up operation involving the Environment Agency, Lancashire County Council, United Utilities, Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service and Lancashire Police.

Credit: MEN Syndication

Residents were also forced to leave their homes due to petrol odours coming from the sewer network.

An Environment Agency investigation found that the incident resulted from Tesco’s failure to address problems with part of the fuel delivery system and an inadequate alarm system.

It was also compounded by poor emergency procedures.

On Thursday at Preston Crown Court the supermarket giant was fined a total of £8m - £5m for a health and safety offence and £3m for an environmental offence.

Tesco earlier pleaded guilty to the offences.

The court heard about 23,500 litres of unleaded petrol leaked from the tank over a 29 hour period. Around 7,000 litres was later recovered at the site and the remainder escaped into the sewer system and watercourse.

Mark Easedale, from the Environment Agency, 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 per cent lower than those found upstream.

The sentencing today 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.

– Mark Easedale

County Councillor Albert Atkinson, deputy leader of Lancashire County Council, which carried out the investigation with the EA, added:

The fact that the leak was allowed to continue for more than 24 hours undoubtedly contributed to a risk of harm to people living and working nearby, as well as emergency services and other professionals attending the incident.

– County Councillor Albert Atkinson
  • Tesco have been approached for comment.