Shropshire Star

Müller donates £100,000 to wildlife charity after it discharged ammonia into river in Market Drayton

Multinational dairy firm Müller has paid out £100,000 to a Shropshire wildlife charity after discharging ammonia into a river in the county.

Müller's site in Market Drayton

The Shropshire Wildlife Trust has received the substantial sum from Müller UK & Ireland Group LLP, as part of an enforcement undertaking (EU) offer accepted by the Environment Agency.

An enforcement undertaking is a voluntary offer made by a company or organisation, to 'put right' the effects of environmental offences and the impact they may have had on third parties.

In January 2018, Müller, the UK's largest producer of yoghurt failed to comply with the conditions of an environmental permit at its site in Market Drayton, when an inlet screen or filter was bypassed during maintenance works.

This resulted in large pieces of fruit being passed into an effluent treatment plant, which in turn led to ammonia from the treated waste being discharged into the nearby River Tern.

Since then, Müller has complied with Environment Agency regulations and has invested £2 million to improve environmental working practices, as well as its contribution to the Shropshire Wildlife Trust.

Pete Lambert, head of land and water at the Shropshire Wildlife Trust, said: “Müller's donation will support the land and water team who manage and improve the health of our county’s water.

"We survey aquatic species, run events and work with different partners to address flooding issues across the county.

“The funds will support the delivery of vital watercourse protection and water quality enhancement projects using nature-based solutions including fencing and tertiary water treatment along a small tributary of the River Tern."

The Shropshire Wildlife Trust works to restore lost habitats, help declining species and inspire future generations to care for nature in Shropshire.

Enforcement undertakings for environmental offences were introduced under the Environmental Civil Sanctions (England) Order 2010.

They can be offered for offences including polluting rivers, breaching permit conditions designed to protect communities, or failing to register and comply with recycling or recovery obligations.

The Environment Agency carefully considers whether the actions offered by the offending company or organisation are acceptable.

Sarah Dennis, senior specialist for the Environment Agency said: “Enforcement undertakings allow polluters to positively address and restore the harm caused to the environment and prevent repeat incidents.

“The Environment Agency is increasingly using this method of enforcement for suitable cases to restore the environment, improve practices of the offending company and avoid longer criminal court cases.

"However, we will prosecute in appropriate cases.

“As well as donations totalling £100,000 to Shropshire Wildlife Trust that will bring great benefits to the environment, Müller UK & Ireland Group LLP has made significant improvements to its effluent treatment plants and staff training.

“Please report any environmental issues to the Environment Agency’s 24-hour incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60.”

A spokesperson for Müller UK & Ireland said: “Our business has operated in Market Drayton for more than 30 years, enjoying a good working relationship with the Environment Agency.

"However we understand this incident in January 2018 fell short of the expectations we set ourselves to be a responsible and sustainable business.

“While there was no evidence of environmental harm caused by this incident, we took it very seriously and carried out a formal internal investigation.

"Following this investigation, we committed to making a number of significant changes at our Market Drayton site to ensure nothing like this could happen again.

"The business spent more than £2 million improving the resilience of treatment plants, improving control systems on site, and carrying out staff training.

“There have been no similar incidents since January 2018, and the protection of the environment continues to form an integral part of our business objectives.”