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A survey of the River Trent

The Environment Agency are still investigating the source of a cyanide leak in the River Trent last month that killed thousands of fish

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Environment Agency demands tougher fines for polluters

Ecologist

6th November, 2009

Agency calls on courts to hand out stronger penalties for waste and pollution criminals

Higher fines are needed to stop repeats of pollution incidents such as the cyanide poisoning of the River Trent last month that wiped out thousands of fish, says the UK's environment watchdog.

The number of cases of serious pollution in England and Wales dropped 13 per cent from 827 in 2008 to 723 in 2007 but still averages more than two a day.

The Environment Agency said it was now urging courts to issue 'tougher fines for businesses who pollute', in a bid to cut that figure further.

Only last month, fish stocks virtually disappeared from a stretch of the River Trent after it was polluted with cyanide.

The Agency says it is still investigating who is to blame for the poisoning but it has temporarily banned Red Industries Ltd, a waste management company, from dumping any industrial effluent into the water system.

Major fines

In two of the most serious cases brought by the Agency last year, Anglian Water were fined £150,000 for repeated illegal discharges from its sewage treatment works, and Patrick Anderson and James Kelleher were sentenced to 22 months and 14 months respectively for dumping nearly 15,000 tonnes of rubbish in Essex and London.

Meanwhile, the Environment Agency has admitted it is having trouble tracking down 'middle-men' or 'brokers' who buy and sell waste from the UK.

It said it would start working with Interpol, the international police network, to investigate links between organised crime networks and the illegal export of waste, particularly electrical waste to developing countries.

Useful links

Environment Agency

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