Glastonbury Festival has been fined £31,000 by a district judge after human waste was found to have leaked into a river – killing protected fish.
Whitelake River, which runs through the site of the festival, was contaminated with 20,000 gallons of untreated sewage after a steel tank sprung a leak in June 2014.
The incident caused the deaths of at least 42 fish including brown trout and bullhead and over 4km of the river was affected by the accident.
District Judge Simon Cooper concluded that the festival had a low culpability for the incident and stated that he was “bemused by the vigour and energy” that had been put into the case, praising the festival’s response:
I am concerned that these proceedings have set the Environment Agency somewhat against Glastonbury Festival Limited.
“I am satisfied that there was proper planning for the festival and no criticism is made of that.
“The Environment Agency were in an advisory capacity and signed off the sanitary facilities plan. There was a waste management plan, there was a rivers and streams management plan.
“I am bemused at the vigour and energy that has been put into this detailed analysis of what happened much after the event.”
The festival was fined a total of £12,000 and was ordered to pay £19,000 towards prosecution costs after five days of hearings.
Although festival staff investigated the leak after pollution levels were spiked in the river, the court heard that they did not call the Environmental Agency hotline, which might have resulted in swift investigation by an agency officer.
Ian Withers of the Environmental Agency said that “the festival is held in a beautiful part of the Somerset countryside and we want to see it remain that way,” and the incident was, “a serious pollution incident that had a significant impact on water quality and the fish population of the Whitelake River over some distance.”
Speaking to the press after the case, Michael Eavis, founder of the festival said that:
I don’t really think it was necessary to get this far. We pleaded guilty to make it easier for them yet they still wanted to pursue this case.
“I think it was a bit of a waste of time, to be honest with you. It wasn’t that serious a crime really.”
The festival has since added extra precautions to its waste systems to prevent future leaks.
This year’s festival is set to begin on June 22 and features the likes of Muse, Adele, Coldplay, Foals, Madness, Wolf Alice and Grimes.