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‘Reckless’ actions of company cause pony to become stuck in stream

A “reckless” landscaping company has been fined for polluting a stream in which a pony became stuck up to its belly in thick mud.

Tree service and ground clearance company Arbormaster (UK) Ltd, of St Leonards Farm, New Years Green Lane, Haresfield, pleaded guilty to three charges under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2016, at Ealing Magistrates’ Court on 26 April. All commercial waste activities are regulated by the Environment Agency. The regulations require that whenever waste is stored or treated, the operator is required to hold an environmental permit or register for an exemption, which is reserved for low-risk water activities only.

The pony was found by Environment Agency officers up to its belly in sludge in February 2016 after a member of the public reported the River Pinn had become “cloudy” at several locations downstream of Ruislip. When officers attended the pony managed to break free from the deep mud.

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: “Dirty water escaped from a site operated by Arbormaster (UK) Ltd in 2016 when staff washed soil. The muck then travelled into fields and a stream called Mad Bess Brook, between Harefield and Ruislip.

“Officers were unable to prove the muddy water got into the Pinn, but they traced the pollution back to Mad Bess Brook and St Leonards Farm. Investigators found a large quantity of murky water cascading down the side of a pile of waste soil. The water drained away from the farm via a ditch connected to the stream.”

The spokesman said “discoloured liquid” was discovered at Mad Bess Brook shortly after Arbormaster had installed a machine at St Leonards Farm to clean waste soil used in landscaping and the company was ordered by the Environment Agency to stop the process as a result of the pollution.

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District judge Deborah Wright called Arbormaster’s actions “reckless” and the company was fined £3,500 and ordered to pay £5,000 costs and a £170 victim surcharge.

James Burton, senior environment officer for the Environment Agency, said: “Pumping large amounts of water into a waste pile [of soil] without any way of capturing the liquid was inevitably going to cause a problem. Arbormaster knew the water was escaping from the site, yet failed to stop the soil-washing.

“The Environment Agency can work with companies to make sure they comply with the law, but enforcement is always open to us. I hope the £3,500 fine sends out a powerful message to businesses that protecting the environment is not an optional extra. It’s a must.”

Arbormaster (UK) Ltd did not respond to a request for comment.

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