The Environment Agency launched an investigation after being alerted by reports from local residents and found that the disposal of waste ink by the Yeovil-based packaging manufacturer was responsible for the contamination in April last year.
According to the Agency, an employee had poured 50 buckets of waste ink down a drain at Ablebox’s 3,340sqm premises over two or three days because there was no room left in the waste ink storage containers. The employee said he had done so on management instructions, while Ablebox told Yeovil magistrates’ court that he had done so on his own.
Ablebox pleaded guilty to violating the Environmental Permitting Regulations, and was ordered on 7 November this year to pay a £6,000 fine alongside £1,281 in legal costs, £5,566 in investigation costs and a £170 victim surcharge. The company has also pledged to be more environmentally friendly.
Oliver Hill of the Environment Agency said: “Businesses must never pour any waste down surface water drains as they are often connected to nearby streams or rivers. By disposing of waste in this way you are committing a criminal offence.
“This prosecution serves as a timely reminder for businesses to act responsibly. Where we have evidence, we won’t hesitate to prosecute offenders.”
Ablebox executive chair Sam Ainsworth said the directors were “horrified” by the incident and paid for the immediate clean-up operation.
In addition to paying the fine and the associated costs, Ainsworth said the firm will make a “sizeable, voluntary donation” to the Westcountry Rivers Trust.
Ainsworth said: “We cannot shy away from what happened, but we do not want it to do damage to our company. We are doing everything we can to put it right and to protect Ablebox’s reputation and people’s jobs.
“We are a very environmentally conscious company – we drive electric cars and [pre-]ordered the UK’s first two Tesla trucks – which is why this is so painful for us.”
Moving forward, Ablebox has invested £6m in building a second, purpose-built factory in neighbouring town Henstridge and the purchase of a new corrugating machine. It is expected that the new 6,690sqm premises will generate 20 additional jobs on top of the firm’s current headcount of 65. A solar array is also set to be installed on the new build.
Described by Ainsworth as an “active, growing company”, Ablebox specialises in the manufacture and printing of corrugated packaging.