Makers of The Famous Grouse fined for watercourse pollution

Highland Distillers was fined £15,000 after pleading guilty to failing to comply with the conditions of its water use licence following a diesel spill into a nearby watercourse.

The spill, which resulted in the discharge of 4,000 litres of diesel fuel from the Highland Park Distillery in Kirkwall into an unnamed tributary of the Crantit Canal, was found to breach conditions in the licence and cause environmental damage.

Highland Distillers, which produce well-known Scotch whisky brands such as The Famous Grouse and The Macallan, plead guilty to the charges on August 31 at Kirkwall Sheriff Court, but sentencing was deferred until September 28.

The charges were brought forward by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), which investigated Highland Distillers after a heavy layer of oil was reported on the surface of the Crantit Canal.

Its investigations concluded that the leak occurred from a corroded pipe between a fuel tank and a boiler house. The damaged pipe has since been replaced.

SEPA warned that the polluting effects caused by the spill could lead to the death of fish and local wildlife, and its survey confirmed the ecology of the watercourse has been affected by the spill.

SEPA reporting officer, Erica Harrap, said: “Diesel can have a severe polluting effect if it enters the water environment. The oil forms a film over the water, resulting in low levels of oxygen which can lead to the death of fish and invertebrates.

“Due to the length of the watercourse affected, the extent of the ecological damage and the visible pollution, the release of diesel fuel oil into the Crantit Canal was categorised as a major environmental incident.

The clean-up of the watercourse was organised by Orkney Islands Council marine services, which deployed absorbent booms and pumped the oil out upstream.

The ruling follows news earlier this week that Scottish Water was fined £6,000 after pleading guilty to two charges of failing to comply with the terms of its water licence following the discharge of sewage into Methven Burn.

Carys Matthews

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