Pollution monitoring robot catches Rhone-Poulenc

The National Rivers Authority (NRA) has secured its first conviction in a water pollution case on the basis of evidence collected by an automatic sampling device. Although the law was not written with this eventuality in mind, monitoring and sampling by machine looks set to become common for industrial discharges in future.

The prosecution arose from an incident at Rhone-Poulenc Chemicals' Avonmouth site. The company had agreed to be a guinea pig to test a prototype automatic sampler, Cyclops, developed by the NRA at a cost of £30,000.

Cyclops was installed to monitor the firm's discharge to the Kingsweston Rhine. The machine notifies the NRA of any large variations in effluent quality by fax, and can be instructed to take samples via a telephone link.

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