"Drunken fish" might be a great name for a stupidly delicious Chinese seafood dish, but the incident that recently took place at a cider factory in Hereford is no laughing matter.
In August 2014, between 2,000 and 3,000 fish—including bullhead, minnows, chub, and dace—were found dead in Widemarsh Brook, a small stream connected to the Yazor Brook watercourse, which runs through parts of Herefordshire. The reason? A worker from the nearby Bulmers Cider factory (owned by lager giant Heineken) had emptied a container of ammonia-contaminated water into a surface water drain, which made its way into the stream and poisoned the fish.
Last week, the Government's Environment Agency (EA) ruled that Heineken had breached environmental law with this careless action. The company must now pay the EA's legal fees, as well as give £160,000 to environment charities to avoid further prosecution. The Wye and Usk Foundation, an organisation that works to restore habitats on the River Wye, will receive £150,000 and the Yazor, Widemarsh, and Eign Brooks Restoration Project will get £10,000.
MUNCHIES reached out to Heineken for comment on what changes had been put in place at the Bulmers factory since the incident. A spokesperson told us: "This was a clear breach of our usual policies and industry best practice. Since then, we have cooperated fully with the Agency's investigation and fully accept their findings. Since the incident, we have taken steps to tighten up our procedures and have carried out further training of colleagues and contractors to ensure that it will not happen again."
The spokesperson continued: "As part of our agreement with the EA, we were happy to take up their request to work with local organisations focused on the environment. The two charities we have chosen to support will help to create and protect a more sustainable natural environment for the future."
Here's hoping Hereford's fish will be staying teetotal from now on.