Veolia fined £13,500 for sewage spill at Seafield

Veolia Water Outsourcing, formerly Thames Water Services, has been fined £13,500 for a major sewage spill that closed beaches along the Forth estuary last year (ENDS Report 388, p 17 ).

Around 120 million litres of screened sewage are thought to have been discharged into the Forth on 20-23 April 2007 after the lead pump at Veolia’s Marine Esplanade pumping station in Edinburgh suffered a mechanical failure. The back-up pump had been out of service since January 2007, awaiting the delivery of new parts.

The sewage was meant to go to Seafield sewage works but Veolia was forced to divert it into the Forth at Scottish Water’s Albert Road pumping station.

No contingency plan had been put in place to deal with such an incident.

Appearing at Edinburgh sheriff court on 22 February, Veolia pleaded guilty to a charge of discharging screened sewage into the Forth without authorisation, contrary to regulation 5 and 40(1)(a) of the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2005 and section 20(1) of the Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003.

The sheriff reduced what would have been a £20,000 fine by a third because Veolia entered a guilty plea at the earliest opportunity.

"This was a clearly avoidable incident," said Colin Bayes, director of environmental protection and improvement at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. "Major pumping stations pose a clear threat to the environment in the event of failure, and require preventative maintenance with major back-up facilities… It was fortunate that the discharge was to this part of the Forth estuary, a large body of water which allowed significant dilution to minimise harm."

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