A Lincolnshire angling club has outlined a claim against a fertiliser company for polluting the River Witham in March 2018 and killing an estimated minimum 135,000 fish. Fish Legal is bringing the civil claim for damages against Omex Agriculture Ltd on behalf of the Boston & District Angling Association. The pollution was described by the Environment Agency as “one of the largest environmental incidents ever recorded in Lincolnshire”.
The anglers’ claim follows a successful prosecution of Omex Agriculture Ltd by the Environment Agency. On 12 June 2023, Omex pleaded guilty to polluting around 46km of the River Witham with approximately 3 million litres of ammonia which escaped from a storage lagoon at its Bardney plant. Omex Agriculture Ltd was sentenced to pay a fine of £160,000 at Lincolnshire Magistrates and ordered to pay the Environment Agency’s costs in bringing the case.
It is the second claim brought by anglers against Omex Agriculture Limited for fertiliser pollution. In 2002, Fish Legal successfully made a claim against the company for damages on behalf of the Grantham Angling Club after 25,000 litres of liquid fertiliser poured from an agricultural storage tank killing fish over 15km of the River Witham.
Cameron Hogg, Solicitor of Fish Legal said
“Omex Agriculture Ltd has a track record of polluting the River Witham. And while we welcome the Environment Agency taking enforcement action against the company on this occasion, the £160,000 fine handed down by the Court doesn’t really do justice to the sheer scale of this environmental crime.”
“The District Judge described the pollution as foreseeable, avoidable and negligent. More than 135,000 fish were wiped out. For a company reporting dividend payments of £1,680,000 in 2022, you wonder how much of a deterrent a fine of that size really is.”
Barbara Clifton, Honorary Secretary and Treasurer of Boston & District Angling Association said:
“No amount of compensation will ever make up for the distress experienced by our angler members in seeing the river Witham destroyed by such carelessness. We anticipate that it will take until 2035 for it to fully recover and some of our club members fear the river will never be the same again. These pollution incidents have to stop.”