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Lincs agri firm told to pay out £500k after major pollution incident

An agricultural business has been ordered to pay out over £500,000 after a pollution incident killed more than 135,000 fish in the River Witham in Lincolnshire.

In a prosecution brought by the Environment Agency, Lincolnshire Magistrate heard that OMEX Agriculture Ltd leaked liquid fertiliser into the River Witham in March 2018.

Approximately three million litres of liquid urea ammonium nitrate (UAN) concentrate fertiliser escaped from a storage lagoon into the river and its tributaries.

The pollution – which stretched 46km to The Wash at Boston – is thought to be one of "the largest environmental incidents ever recorded in Lincolnshire".

Failure of an overground pipe caused the spill, which seeped into nearby rivers and surrounding woodland.

OMEX Agriculture, a global company with its headquarters in Lincolnshire, manufacturers liquid chemical fertiliser for the agricultural industry.

The Environment Agency said that impact from the firm's pollution destroyed all invertebrates in the river’s tributaries for more than 23km downstream of the site.

The agency had to restock the river with more than 1.5 million fish larvae and 70,000 roach and bream.

Whilst the water quality of the River Witham improved within a few days, it could take "years" to fully recover, the court heard.

OMEX Agriculture Ltd pleaded guilty on 12 June 2023 to the major category 1 pollution incident at their facility at Bardney Airfield, Tupholme, near Bardney, at Lincolnshire Magistrates.

They were ordered to pay a fine of £160,000, ordered to pay costs of £350,000 and a victim surcharge of £190.

District Judge Veits said that the incident "was avoidable had proper checks been made", adding that "checks were not clear or well documented" and that the failures involved were "foreseeable".

He also said there was "clear negligence in not having appropriate checks in place."


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