£10k fine for company leaking acid into river

Streamline Environmental Services has been successfully prosecuted by the Environment Agency (EA) for causing hydrochloric acid to leak into the River Quaggy in Lewisham which "devastated wildlife".

The firm pleaded guilty to the charges on Monday (Nov 7) and was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay costs of more than £5,300 following the incident which turned the water “reddish brown” and killed fish and other river life.

The leak was caused when the company was contracted by Mitie ltd to descale two of its boilers. The acid was left in the boilers overnight and the next day, the defendant found the acid had leaked from the base of the boiler. The surface flooding was washed down without the use of a neutralising agent and a pipe was put from the boiler directly into a drain which led to the outfall pipe into the River Quaggy.

The EA’s Peter Ehmann said: “This incident could have been prevented or substantially ameliorated if the company had taken proper precautions before and after the leak to avoid potentially lethal chemicals leaking or being washed into the drain and ultimately into the river. The offence was aggravated by the defendant’s behaviour, which fell far below the standard expected of a competent contractor handling such hazardous substance.”

“We take this sort of incident very seriously. A lot of hard work has gone in to improving the River Quaggy as a vital habitat for fish and other wildlife over the years and this pollution is a significant step backwards. We hope this serves as a reminder to all those who work with potential pollutants to take their responsibilities seriously. The release of acid has devastated wildlife, which could have been prevented had proper procedures been in place.”

Will Parsons

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