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Von Essen ordered to pay fines for polluting a stream

23 May 2007 by
Von Essen ordered to pay fines for polluting a stream

Luxury hotel operator Von Essen has been ordered to pay £63,864 in fines and costs for allowing poor quality sewage effluent to pollute a stream at its Mount Somerset Hotel in Taunton.

Officers from the Environment Agency visited the Lower Henlade property after members of the public reported a strong smell of sewage around a stream and adjoining field.

During the visit they noticed a "fatty scum" on the surface of the water just downstream of the hotel and sewage fungus on the bed of the stream indicating that pollution had been going on for some time.

The hotel's sewage treatment plant had a history of problems since it was installed in September 2003 and despite repeated requests from the Environment Agency, Von Essen failed to carry out improvements to bring the treatment works up to standard.

On 12 May 2006 the Agency served an enforcement notice on Von Essen following the poor performance of its treatment works over a period of 20 months.

The company was given until 7 July 2006 to carry out improvements to the hotel's treatment works to ensure it was compliant.

However, officers noticed a "strong smell of sewage" around the treatment works and stream during their visit on 10 July 2006.

Catherine Lockwood of the Environment Agency said: "While Von Essen prides itself on the standard of service it provides its guests, in the case of the Mount Somerset Hotel, the company appeared to have little regard for the impact its sewage treatment works was having on the environment and their neighbours in the village of Henlade."

Von Essen pleaded guilty to 15 offences under the Water Resources Act (1991), including breaching conditions of its discharge content at the Mount Somerset between 5 August 2004 and 15 September 2006 and failing to comply with two enforcement notices.

Despite pleading guilty, Von Essen said it is considering an appeal.

In a statement, the group said: "This is a longstanding issue which we inherited from the previous owners of the hotel and have been working with the relevant authorities both to identify and solve.

"Following an investment by Von Essen of in excess of £250,000, which included the obtaining of complex planning consents and bespoke machinery, we are disappointed that the Environmental Agency levied this retrospective penalty. It is a decision we will consider appealing against."

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By Daniel Thomas

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