Company fined for taking too much water from Norfolk river

A company was fined �14,000 today for taking too much water from the River Yare.

Gravel processor Lafarge Aggregates was also ordered to pay �2,069 costs by Norwich Magistrates' Court after it admitted taking more than nine times more water than it was licensed to in order to wash gravel on some dates between January and November 2009 at Easton Quarry, near Norwich.

Claire Bentley, prosecuting for the Environment Agency, said the company had previously been warned for taking too much water in 2006. It also has six other previous cautions for environmental offices, two for breaches of abstraction licences.

On this occasion there was over-abstraction on many dates between January and November 2009 and although meter readings were recorded, no calculations were made to determine cubic metres taken.

Miss Bentley told the court that the offences came to light on a routine audit of the company's records. They showed that on one day alone 1,800 cubic metres (395,944 gallons) of water over the daily limit was taken, 900 per cent extra.

'The proper management of water resources, particularly during low flows, is important as it can have impacts on both the environment and human uses of water,' said Miss Bentley.

Ian Mundy, a manager for the company, told investigators the failure was not common practice. He thought that the problems arose because of a high turnover of staff, a variety of different staff recording meter readings and a quarry manager running two sites.

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He said the company deeply regretted the incident and since then had introduced a new and better recording system.

In mitigation, Lukas Rootman, solicitor for Lafarge, said the company had taken action to prevent a future incident, including investing in new technology so that abstraction pumps had automatic cut-outs, the adoption of a new spreadsheet system that automatically recognised any breaches and audits at all sites looking at abstraction.

After the hearing Environment Agency officer Emma Roberts said: 'The limits on abstraction licences are calculated to protect the environment. By exceeding these limits on several occasions, Lafarge put the environment at risk.

'We expect companies to take their environmental responsibilities seriously and will take action where we find breaches of legislation. We do believe that Lafarge has learnt from this, and look forward to working with them to look at their procedures to ensure this cannot happen again.'