Following deregulatory measures in 1994, industrial waste may be spread on land with little regulatory oversight beyond pre-notification of the Environment Agencies. The practice has also received a boost thanks to the landfill tax.
Moves are now afoot to tighten the controls, in part because of a series of odour and water pollution incidents caused by land spreading operations (ENDS Report 281, pp 27-29 ). A review published by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) in November recommended an outright ban on land spreading of blood and gut contents
The latest prosecution followed reports received by SEPA in October 1997 that the Avon Water, near Hamilton, was foaming. Officers traced the pollution to its source a few kilometres upstream.
Over the previous few days, Transorganics had been injecting industrial wastes including blood and gut contents into a field. It had failed to notice that run-off was pouring into a stream which fed the Avon. On receiving SEPA's warning, the company stopped injections and took measures to contain further releases.
The abattoir waste was being disposed of on pasture at South Quarter Farm near Hamilton. The heavy clay soil was arguably unsuitable for injection of liquid wastes.
Appearing before Hamilton Sheriff Court in late October, Transorganics pleaded guilty to causing a discharge of trade effluent without a consent, contrary to section 30F of the Control of Pollution Act 1974. The company was fined £1,500.
The incident followed another in September 1997 when SEPA decided only to issue a warning letter. The run-off in this incident affected the North Calder Water in Lanarkshire.
SEPA is currently investigating two further Transorganics pollution incidents to decide whether to recommend prosecution. The company has had two previous convictions in Scotland since 1995.
Transorganics has also caused several pollution incidents south of the border, leading to five prosecutions by the former National Rivers Authority and two this year by the Environment Agency. Abattoir waste was involved in the most recent English prosecution over an incident in which four kilometres of a river in Devon were turned red (ENDS Report 281, p 55 ).