Discharge from Davidstow Cathedral City cheese factory poisoned fish

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The water treatment plant at Davidstow creamery
Image caption,
The Environment Agency said the offences include incidents and breaches "which have resulted in fish kills"

The factory where Cathedral City cheddar cheese is made poisoned fish with discharges that ran into nearby rivers, a court has heard.

Dairy Crest admitted 21 pollution incidents and permit breaches that have occurred since 2016 at its Davidstow Creamery near Camelford in Cornwall.

The incidents led to fish kills in the River Inny in 2016 and 2018, and sentencing will be in May.

The case at Truro Crown Court was brought by the Environment Agency (EA).

Dairy Crest, which is owned by Canadian firm Saputo, said in a statement it had "undertaken a significant amount of work to rectify the historic issues to which the prosecution relates".

It added it was "proud to be a major employer in Cornwall and are committed to being a responsible corporate citizen in the region".

Image caption,
Dairy Crest, whose brands include Cathedral City cheese, buys milk from about 300 farmers in the area.

Eleven of the charges admitted by the firm relate to contravening environmental permits with discharges of waste into the River Inny between December 2015 and January 2021, the court heard.

Charges refer to "biological sludge" as well as "suspended solids" and "partially treated creamery effluent".

Two offences relate to contravening permits on odour between June 2016 and June 2020.

Another was waiting for more than a month in August 2018 to tell the EA about discharge breaches.

A further charge said the company allowed discharges on 16 August 2016 "to such an extent as to cause the waters to be poisonous or injurious to fish or the spawn of fish or food of fish".

Six charges will remain on file which the EA can pursue later if there is reoffending.

Image caption,
The Davidstow plant is where the well-known Cathedral City cheese is manufactured

People living near the plant said in 2018 that their lives had been blighted by a foul smell from the plant that kept them awake at night and gave them headaches.

The court was told the company was working to remedy the problems but there were still ongoing issues.

Davidstow has a "long history of making award winning cheddar of consistent quality and is the home of the distinctive, smooth and creamy taste of Cathedral City", says the company's website.

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