Anglers settle legal claim against major liquid fertiliser manufacturer for River Witham fish kill

14th December 2023

A Lincolnshire angling club has reached an out-of-court settlement with Omex Agriculture Ltd after the company polluted the River Witham in March 2018 with fertiliser, killing an estimated minimum 135,000 fish.  With the help of Fish Legal, the Boston and District Angling Association has secured damages from the polluter for losses including loss of amenity until fish stocks in the river fully recover.

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 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.  The pollution was so severe that the company was also served with notice to remediate the damage by the Environment Agency under rarely used Environmental Damage Regulations.

This is the second claim brought by anglers against Omex Agriculture Ltd for fertiliser pollution.  In 2002, Fish Legal settled another 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: “No amount of money will ever make up for the distress experienced by our angler members in seeing the river Witham destroyed by this pollution, described by the Judge in the criminal case as foreseeable, avoidable and negligent. Nevertheless, we’re glad that we were able to successfully claim for damages on the club’s behalf and that the fertiliser company did not force us to go to court.”

Barbara Clifton, Honorary Secretary and Treasurer of Boston & District Angling Association said:

“As any angling club will tell you, getting that call to say that dead fish have been seen on your waters is the stuff of nightmares.  The fish kill was devastating for us given that the club works so hard to provide angling for the community in our local area, particularly young and disabled anglers.  We look forward to the time when the fishing we have on the Witham is back to its best.”

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