Record fines for Scottish water polluters

Two Scottish companies were each fined over £2,000 for water pollution offences in March, the first time that the higher penalties brought in by the Environmental Protection Act 1990 have been applied north of the border.

The 1990 Act raised the maximum fine available to a magistrates court from £2,000 to £20,000 per offence from the beginning of 1991. In England and Wales a fine above £2,000 was first imposed last April (ENDS Report 195, p 4 ).

In Scotland, where average fines for water pollution offences have been lower than those south of the border (ENDS Report 203, pp 27-8 ), it was not until 10 March that the old limit was exceeded in a case brought against T K Valves of Dunfermline. The firm pleaded guilty to a charge of polluting a tributary of the Lyne Burn with nickel from its plating works at Halbeath Place last September.

The Forth River Purification Board (RPB) measured 22,000µg/l of nickel in the burn downstream of the plant. The level upstream was less than 50µg/l. The pollution occurred after poor maintenance of catch trays and continual spillages contaminated soil on the site, allowing nickel to leach into the stream. The company was found guilty under section 32(1)(a) of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 and fined £3,000.

The record was short-lived. Ten days later, paper company Sappi Graphics Transcript was fined £6,000 at Kirkcaldy sheriff court after pleading guilty to a charge under the same section of the 1974 Act.

The case was brought after a public complaint alerted the Forth RPB to pollution on the river Leven at Markinch, Fife. Trade effluent from the firm's works was overflowing into a ditch leading into the river. Partial blockage of the company's connection to the sewer was later found to be causing the overflow through an unconsented outfall.

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