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Shell fined for polluting groundwater: fined £18,000, ordered to pay £53,198 costs and for estimated £5 million clean up

Shell fined for polluting groundwater

Source: The Environment Agency – England and Wales
Published Jul. 7, 2008

Shell UK Oil Products Ltd has been fined GBP 18000 by Grimsby Magistrates’ Court for polluting the groundwaters close to its Toothill Petrol Filling Station at Yarborough Road, Grimsby.

The cost of cleaning up the underground contamination, which has been paid by Shell to Anglian Water, is estimated to be about £5 million, the court was told on Wednesday (25 June 2008). The company was also ordered to pay £53,198 Environment Agency costs.

Magistrates were told that the pollution happened between January and May 2000 when unleaded petrol was lost from an underground petrol storage tank, into a major aquifer known as the Flamborough Chalk, underlying the Grimsby area.

Littlecoates drinking water abstraction owned by Anglian Water consists of a number of boreholes that abstract water under licence. Abstraction for public consumption had to be decreased by about 37per cent between 2003-7.

The court was told that the Flamborough Chalk aquifer had sustained a serious pollution, the effects of which would be long lasting.

Investigating officer, Chris Martin commented that this was a lengthy and complex investigation which drew upon technical in-house expertise. He added that the case highlighted the importance of ensuring that polluting substances are stored correctly and site infrastructure is regularly checked, particularly when dealing with underground storage tanks containing many thousands of litres of fuel. He concluded that out of sight shouldn’t mean out of mind.

Shell UK Oil Products Ltd pleaded guilty to causing poisonous, noxious or polluting matter, namely unleaded petrol, to enter groundwaters, between 1 January 2000 and 10 May 2000 at Toothill Petrol Filling Station, Yarborough Road, Grimsby, Lincolnshire, contrary to s 85(1) of the Water Resources Act 1991.

After the hearing Environment Agency Environment Manager Simon Mitchell said: ‘We anticipated that the court might refer the case to the Crown Court, on the basis that the level of damage to the groundwater in this area will require the clean-up process to continue for a number of years. With this in mind, the level of fine imposed is a little disappointing.

‘However, we are obviously pleased that our actions, in conjunction with the water company, have prevented local people from being supplied with contaminated drinking water. Our officers traced the contamination to its source and the culprits are now spending millions cleaning up their act.’

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