A clay company responsible for a slurry leak which turned the River Plym milky white has been ordered to pay more than £3,000. Plymouth magistrates told WBB Minerals to pay a £2,000 fine and £1,325 costs in a case brought by the Environment Agency.
The ruling came after the firm admitted responsibility for the leak from its pipeline at Cadover Bridge, near Shaugh Prior, in January.
Environment Agency officers said that the incident caused serious discoloration and pollution affecting a 12 kilometre stretch of the river.
WBB Minerals separates china clay from unwanted quarried materials at Shaugh Quarry. Water is then added to the clay to produce a thick white liquid known as clay slurry.
On January 4, a pipeline transporting clay slurry burst, causing the material to leak into the river via a tributary.
Environment Agency officers visited Shaugh Quarry after the company reported the incident. They found that the river was flowing white and there was a fine white deposit on its bed.
Tests showed that the suspended solids in sampled river water ranged in volume from 21 milligrammes per litre to 135 milligrammes per litre.
The expected results for river water on a normal dry day are less than three milligrammes per litre.
Mark Jacob, for the Environment Agency, said: "As well as having a negative visual impact, high concentrations of clay slurry can smother the spawning grounds of fish such as salmon and sea trout."
A spokesman for WBB Minerals said that the company had always accepted full responsibility for the incident. Some engineering modifications had already been made.