A judge has ruled that Glastonbury Festival has to pay a £31,000 fine after thousands of gallons of human sewage leaked out of a steel container tank.
The fine dates back to the 2014 edition of the Worthy Farm-staged event when sewage leaked out of one of three large steel tanks on site, infecting a nearby stream, harming the water quality and killing 42 fish.
The Environmental Agency said in court that the festival “has evolved more rapidly than the ability to deal with the waste”, before claiming that more than 4km of the Whitelake river was polluted with 20,000 gallons of untreated sewage. Glastonbury’s failure to immediately alert the Agency through a hotline, meanwhile, resulted in an eight-hour delay that “seriously deteriorated” the water quality, said an EA spokeswoman.
The festival was found, however, to have “low culpability” for the incident, and was praised by district judge Simon Cooper for its response and irrigation systems. “I am satisfied that there was proper planning for the festival and no criticism is made of that,” said the judge at Bristol Magistrates Court. ”There was a waste management plan, there was a rivers and streams management plan. I am impressed by how responsive Glastonbury Festivals Ltd have been.
“I am bemused at the vigour and energy that has been put into this detailed analysis of what happened, much after the event,” continued Cooper. “I am sure lessons will be learned. I shall say no more about it, save to say that cooperation is clearly essential and I hope that this hearing has done nothing to affect that.”
Michael Eavis, the founder of the festival, said after the verdict that: “It’s a great result and I think we were listened to fairly. 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. We did our very, very best when we found the leak – we really did all that we should have done within the timescale.
“This wasn’t really necessary,” he continued. “We should have been doing something else. It will not happen again. We’re putting together the biggest show in the world in four weeks’ time.”
This year’s festival will take place between June 22-26.