JCB fined £30,000 for oil spills

Digger manufacturer JCB Heavy Products polluted a Staffordshire brook with oil twice in a month and failed to take simple preventative measures, magistrates heard in a recent case.

JCB appeared before Staffordshire magistrates on 18 September to plead guilty to two charges of causing diesel to enter the Picknall brook and one charge of knowingly permitting oil to enter the brook, all contrary to section 85(1) of the Water Resources Act 1991.

The court heard that a member of the public reported seeing oil on the brook on 1 May 1999. Environment Agency staff traced the source to a surface water drain from JCB's Pinfold Street site. The drain served a loading area where investigators found that there had been an oil spill. The drain was not fitted with an oil interceptor.

The Agency provided JCB with absorbent booms and pads to stem the pollution. On a follow-up visit on 13 May it urged the company to fit an oil interceptor and obtain its own spillage kits.

A week later the company had another spill which entered the brook from the same drain. Agency staff found that JCB still had no spillage kits, so officers provided more absorbent materials and left some spare on site so that the company could clean up the pollution.

However, the following day there was a further complaint about oil on the brook. The Agency found that the company had failed to clean up the brook or use any of the materials left for the purpose. The absorbent pads fitted by the Agency had become saturated and were ineffective in removing any more oil.

JCB was fined £8,000 and £10,000 for causing polluting matter to enter the brook on 1 and 20 May, respectively. It was fined a further £12,000 for knowingly permitting polluting matter to enter the brook on 21 May. It was also ordered to pay costs of £1,148.

  • South West Water was fined £2,500 by Barnstaple magistrates on 4 October after admitting allowing oil to pollute a stream. The court heard that red diesel leaked from a perished seal on a tank and escaped through a temporary bund and into the stream via surface water drains. The company pleaded guilty to a charge of causing trade effluent to enter controlled waters, contrary to sections 85(3) and 85(6) of the 1991 Act. It was fined and ordered to pay £300 costs.

  • Hampshire County Council was fined £1,500 on 18 October after oil leaked from underground pipes at Pitmore School, Chandlers Ford. Oil floating on a tributary of the Monks Brook Stream was traced back to the school in August 1999. The Council spent £17,000 on cleaning up the damage, which affected 1.5 kilometres of the watercourse. Eastleigh magistrates also ordered the council to pay costs of £1,117.

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