The organisers of Glastonbury Festival have been ordered to pay £31,000 in fines and costs for pollution offences involving human sewage.
More than 4km of the Whitelake River was polluted after approximately 20,000 gallons of untreated sewage escaped from a temporary storage tank on a farm at Pilton, near Shepton Mallet, on 29 June 2014. The Environment Agency said that the pollution killed more than 40 fish and effectively wiped out the local trout population.
The judge heard that the pollution was traced to a leaking storage tank which was used to store the sewage waste on the festival site. In response to the leak, festival staff created an earth bund to contain the pollution, which was later removed from site by tanker.
But the Environment Agency said that failure to alert it through the proper channels resulted in an eight hour delay and caused a serious deterioration in water quality.
Judge Simon Cooper ruled that Glastonbury Festival’s actions after the fish kill had not been negligent and were of low culpability. Hearing the organisers had been issued a caution after the 2010 festival, he ordered that a fine of £12,000 was payable along with £19,000 costs for the two offences.
The Environment Agency monitors water quality in the Whitelake River throughout the festival using telemetry equipment positioned upstream and downstream of Worthy Farm. Additional monitoring is carried out by the festival’s environmental team, which is expected to alert the agency if pollution is discovered within the site.
“While we recognise the Glastonbury Festival provides enjoyment to tens of thousands of people and raises money for a number of good causes, the organisers have a responsibility to ensure it does not cause harm to the environment,” said Environment Agency environment manager Ian Withers. “The festival is held in a beautiful part of the Somerset countryside and we want to see it remain that way.
“This was a serious pollution incident that had a significant impact on water quality and the fish population of the Whitelake River over some distance.”
The sewage spill killed at least 42 fish including 29 bullhead – a European protected species – 10 brown trout and three stone loach. A fish survey revealed that no trout survived the incident.