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Tesco fined £8M for petrol pollution incident

Tesco Stores has been ordered to pay more than £8M in fines and costs after pleading guilty to a pollution incident that sparked a huge multi-agency operation involving the Environment Agency (EA), Lancashire County Council, United Utilities (UU), Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service and Lancashire Police.

The incident, in July 2014, had a massive impact on the local community and environment with residents having to leave their homes due to petrol odours coming from the sewer network.

The EA’s joint investigation with partners found that the incident resulted from Tesco’s failure to address a known issue with part of the fuel delivery system and an inadequate alarm system, and was compounded by poor emergency procedures.

Between July 2 and 3, 2014 about 23,500 litres of petrol escaped from a petrol filling tank at a petrol station in Haslingden operated by Tesco.

Petrol entered the sewerage system with the odours affecting residents up to 1km away causing people to seek medical attention with headaches and sickness. The odours remained in the homes for several days.

Some of the petrol also entered Langwood Brook and the River Irwell causing a significant environmental impact killing fish and other aquatic life.

Samples taken from the River Irwell detected oil up to three miles downstream. More than 40 dead fish, including brown trout, were found within 1.5 miles of where the pollution entered. Anglers reported dead fish in Bury, over six miles downstream.

Tesco Stores pleaded guilty to causing a water discharge activity not under and to the extent authorised by an Environmental Permit, contrary to Regulation 12(1)(b) and 38(1)(a) of the Environmental Permitting (England & Wales) Regulations 2010. A guilty plea was entered at an earlier hearing at Burnley Crown Court on September 12 2016.

There was a further indictment led by Lancashire County Council: Contravention of Regulation 6(8) of the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR) 2002 contrary to s.33(1)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. A guilty plea was also entered for this charge.

Preston Crown Court fined Tesco £5M for the health and safety offence and £3M for the environmental offence. Tesco was also ordered to Environment Agency costs of £35,434.30 and (approx.) £22,000 to Lancashire County Council.

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