Dobbies has been severely fined for allowing sewage from a Cumbrian garden centre to pollute a local waterway.
The Orton Grange garden centre failed to comply with the permit's conditions
The Tesco-owned company has been ordered to pay a record £75,000 for the offence, plus costs of almost £4,000 incurred by the Environment Agency, which brought the prosecution. However, Dobbies says it is considering appealing.
The problem came to light last year after the Environment Agency received complaints from the public about a foul odour coming from a stream. An officer investigated and found that it was contaminated with a white substance and smelled strongly of sewage, and there was evidence that this had been the case for some time.
After further investigation it was found that the pollution came from a pipe pumping secondary-treated sewage into the water from Dobbies' Orton Grange garden centre near Carlisle.
Dobbies had received permission to do this at the centre, which opened in 2011, but samples taken showed the levels of sewage in the water to be up to 12 times the legal limit. Staff at the garden centre were unaware that the permit required them to check the outlet on a weekly basis. Neither did managers at the store inform head office that the Environment Agency had twice raised concerns with them about the problem.
Dobbies was charged with four counts of failing to comply with the requirements of the permit and fined a total of £75,000. The Environment Agency's costs amounted to £3,976.08.
A spokesperson for Dobbies told diyweek.net: "We are taking this matter extremely seriously. Since we became aware that aspects of the sewage treatment plant were not operating as designed we have been working closely with the Environment Agency and other bodies to rectify the situation.
"We have admitted liability. However, we are considering an appeal given the unprecedented level of fine the court has decided to serve upon us."
She added: "We have put rigorous new processes in place and have installed new equipment to minimise the risk of this happening again."