A COUNCIL has been fined £10,000 after the winter gritting store at one of its depots polluted nearby watercourses.

Durham County Council representatives appeared before Darlington magistrates today (Wednesday) to admit causing pollution to Newsham Beck from its depot at Barford, near Barnard Castle.

The Environment Agency prosecuted the authority after a local farmer reported in July 2012 that a number of newly-planted trees on a Newsham Beck tributary had unexpectedly died.

Loading article content

Soil tests found it contained 525 parts per million of sodium - 17 times the amount found in soil taken from an unaffected area – and there were elevated levels of potassium.

Louise Bogle, prosecuting for the Environment Agency, told the court that investigations led the officers upstream to the county council’s depot, where it was storing 7,500 tonnes of winter gritting salt.

The salt pile was uncovered and exposed to rain and there was a crack in the store’s stone retaining wall, with liquid leaking through.

The salt store’s drainage system was also checked and an effluent storage tank was found to be full and overflowing.

Salt water from the depot was escaping from the site via a drainage ditch, affecting the quality of the watercourse for 2.5 km.

In mitigation, Durham County Council representatives told the court that the authority co-operated fully with the investigation, took remedial steps to cover the salt store, and removed contaminated soil from the drainage ditch.

The council has since relocated the salt pile to Wolsingham, where it has built a new £1m depot.

In addition to the fine, Magistrates also ordered the council to pay £2,882 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.