Glastonbury fined £12,000 for sewage leak – but Festival had ‘low culpability’

June 2016

Live events sector



The Glastonbury Festival has been ordered to pay a fine of £12,000 and costs of £19,000 for the environmental incident at the 2014 Festival which saw 20,000 gallons of human waste pollute a nearby river after a steel tank used to hold sewage from the toilets sprang a leak, seeping into Whitelake river and killing 42 fish, among them 29 bullhead – a European protected species and10 protected brown trout.
The BBC reported that the Judge at the trial found Festival had low culpability for incident in 2014 that led to death of 42 fish in Whitelake river and is ‘impressed’ with its response to incident. The Environment Agency claimed during a hearing that the event had grown more quickly than its ability to deal with so much waste. The Judge said the Somerset festival could have contacted the authorities more quickly following the problem in June 2014, but said it had largely dealt with it well.
The court was told that Glastonbury used three very large steel tanks to store human waste from the site, which had a population of 170,000 during the 2014 event. One of the tanks sprung a leak in one of the joins between steel plates and the base of the tank, the court heard. Andrew Marshall, prosecuting on behalf of the Environment Agency, said: “The leak went into the river Whitelake. It had a significant impact on that river. Human sewage is very polluting. The festival has evolved more rapidly than the ability to deal with the waste.”
At an earlier hearing, Glastonbury Festival Ltd plead guilty to causing a water discharge activity not under or in accordance with an environmental permit, namely the discharge of human sewage derived from the Glastonbury music festival, contrary to regulations 12(1)(b) and 38(1)(a) of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010.
Representing the festival, John Cooper said: “There’s no criticism of resources here or of equipment. The only criticism is that it should have been dealt with earlier.” Cooper said the festival gave money to charities including WaterAid, Oxfam and Greenpeace. “It is a unique business to come before the courts,” he said. “Payments are very modest to directors. All of this money is carefully looked after and carefully allocated. It is almost the antithesis of what one sees when sentencing a corporate defendant.”
At Bristol magistrates court, District  Judge Simon Cooper said that he was “satisfied that there was proper planning for the festival, and no criticism is made of that. There was a waste management plan, there was a rivers and streams management plan. I am impressed by how responsive Glastonbury Festivals Ltd have been.”
He concluded: “I am bemused at the vigour and energy that has been put into this detailed analysis of what happened, much after the event. I am sure lessons will be learned. I shall say no more about it, save to say that cooperation is clearly essential and I hope that this hearing has done nothing to affect that.”
Festival founder Michael Eavis said: “It’s a great result and I think we were listened to fairly. I don’t really think it was necessary to get this far. We pleaded guilty to make it easier for them yet they still wanted to pursue this case” and “I think it was a bit of a waste of time, to be honest with you. It wasn’t that serious a crime really. We did our very, very best when we found the leak – we really did all that we should have done within the timescale” adding “This wasn’t really necessary. We should have been doing something else. We’re putting together the biggest show in the world in four weeks’ time.”
The Environment Agency spent £34,236.81 prosecuting the Festival, which admitted breaching environmental regulations.  The judge said he was concerned that the proceedings had “set the Environment Agency somewhat against Glastonbury Festival Limited” adding that had the Festival notified the Agency immediately after a spike was recorded in pollution levels in the river, “They would have been unimpeachable”.
PLEASE NOTE: The writer acts for the Glastonbury Festival, but was not involved in this case in any capacity, and the above was taken from the Environment Agency’s own press release and independent court reporting from the trial.

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