The Church of Scientology will have to pay almost £400,000 for a new sewage system at its UK headquarters in East Grinstead after the existing one was deemed inadequate.
The current sewage treatment plant at Saint Hill Manor has failed to meet the discharge standards required on numerous occasions.
When it was inspected by the Environment Agency following its installation in September 2015, it was operating correctly.
But by October 2015, inspectors were told of pollution in a tributary of the nearby River Medway.
Investigators discovered 200 metres of raw sewage that was coming from the Grade II listed building’s toilets and the Environment Agency explained how “dead invertebrates were found for over 350 metres downstream of the discharge”.
Samples taken from the treatment plant found that the wastewater was being discharged at more than 10 times the permitted limit.
The Church of Scientology Religious Education College – a subsidiary of the religious organisation – was fined £14,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,566 for the pollution following a court hearing in April 2018.
The church pleaded guilty to one offence and asked for ten others to be taken into consideration at Worthing Magistrates' Court.
Dave Willis, Environment Agency manager for the area, said at the time: "We are pleased the court decided to impose a significant financial penalty on the organisation.
“The incident had a serious and avoidable impact on a local watercourse, caused by failing to ensure that the new treatment plant operated correctly.
"We take these types of incidents very seriously and will do everything within our powers to safeguard the environment and people affected, and that includes bringing those who harm the environment to account for their actions."
Work has reportedly already started on a new and bigger sewage treatment plant and a planning application has been submitted to Mid Sussex District Council.
According to the planning documents, the price for the equipment and services to install the new larger plant is £379,000.
The application explains how the existing sewage treatment plant is “far too small to treat current and anticipated flows and loads”.
It reads: “In 2017 the Environment Agency carried out regular testing of the final effluent quality of the current sewage plant and found the quality levels were below their set standards.
“It was concluded that the existing system was not adequate to service the estate, producing substandard effluent quality, and as their powers allowed, informed the current owners to resolve the problem, culminating in a subsequent fine through lack of progress or improvement.
“However, after the owners more recently sought help from a drainage consultant, on the 13th April 2018 the Environment Agency issued a new Environmental Permit with set quality limits, requiring these standards to be met as soon as possible.
“Enso International Ltd were subsequently engaged to design a new treatment system to meet and/or exceed these new standards.”
A spokesman for The Church of Scientology said: "Over the past decade or so we have made extensive upgrades to our church facilities at Saint Hill Manor estate to accommodate continual expansion.
"This has included a new wing in Saint Hill Castle, full internal and external renovations and restorations to the castle and to the manor itself, a new larger and fully equipped restaurant, and beautiful landscaping.
"We have been delighted to be able to provide many family-friendly events and festivals, enjoyed by up to thousands at a time from the local and wider communities.
"Continued expansion such as this brings its own challenges. Hence the further-expanded biosolids treatment facilities now planned."
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