Higher Scottish fines for trade effluent offences

A Scottish pet food company has been fined £7,500 for discharging 87 times its consented level of oils and grease into the sewerage system. The fine was imposed under new Scottish legislation which raised the maximum fine for breaching discharge consents to £20,000. Under English law the maximum is still £2,000.

The prosecution was brought by Lothian Regional Council, which is the only sewerage undertaker to have brought any prosecutions against dischargers. This was is its third case since last October.

Dofos Frozen Foods of Leith had a poor history of compliance with its trade effluent consent stretching back almost 20 years. Its discharges of fats and solids had frequently blocked the sewers.

In a case brought in June, Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard that an effluent sample taken last October contained a massive excess of fats and three times the limit for suspended solids. Another breach was detected in February. Dofos pleaded guilty to two charges under section 24(2) of the Sewerage (Scotland) Act 1968 and was fined £7,500 for the first offence and £2,500 for the second.

Lothian Regional Council had already prosecuted Robert Wiseman & Sons, a dairy company, in April after the firm's failure to supervise a delivery of diesel oil led to 4,000 litres being discharged into a stream through a surface water drain. The company were fined £750.

Lothian also prosecuted a malting firm, Pure Malt Products, in October 1991 for breaching a BOD limit in its trade effluent consent. On two occasions the discharge overloaded the Haddington sewage works, causing pollution of the river Tyne. The company was fined £1,500 for both offences.

The maximum fine available to a sheriff court was raised from £1,000 to £20,000 by schedule 10(5) of the Natural Heritage (Scotland) Act 1991. In England and Wales, however, the maximum fine in a magistrates court for a breach of a sewer discharge consent remains at £2,000, although the Environmental Protection Act 1990 raised the maximum for a water pollution offence to £20,000.

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