Somerset packaging firm fined for turning river purple with hazardous waste

Written by: Rhys Handley | Published:
The polluted River Yeo

Somerset packaging manufacturer Ablebox has been fined £13,017 for turning a nearby river purple.

An investigation from the Environment Agency (EA) followed up on reports from local residents to find that the disposal of waste ink by Yeovil-based Ablebox had changed the colour of the nearby River Yeo in April last year.

It was found by investigators that an employee had poured 50 buckets of waste ink down a drain at Ablebox’s 3,344sqm premises over two or three days because there was no room left in the waste ink storage containers.

The employee said he had done so on management instructions, while Ablebox told Yeovil magistrates’ court that he had done so on his own.

Ablebox pleaded guilty to violating the Environmental Permitting Regulations, and was ordered to pay a £6,000 fine alongside £1,281 in legal costs, £5,566 in investigation costs and a £170 victim surcharge.

Oliver Hill of the EA said: “Businesses must never pour any waste down surface water drains as they are often connected to nearby streams or rivers. By disposing of waste in this way you are committing a criminal offence.

“This prosecution serves as a timely reminder for businesses to act responsibly. Where we have evidence, we won’t hesitate to prosecute offenders.”

According to executive chair Sam Ainsworth, the firm had initially offered to donate circa £12,500 to a local conservation charity, though this was rejected by magistrates. He said the directors were “horrified” by the incident and paid for the immediate clean-up operation.

Ainsworth said: “We cannot shy away from what happened, but we do not want it to do damage to our company. We are doing everything we can to put it right and to protect Ablebox’s reputation and people’s jobs.

“We are a very environmentally conscious company – we drive electric cars and ordered the UK’s first two Tesla trucks – which is why this is so painful for us.”

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