Veolia Water Outsourcing Ltd entered a guilty plea to charges of causing or permitting Scottish Water to discharge screened sewage effluent into the firth,

The Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard how an estimated 120 million litres of sewage bound for the Seafield Sewage Treatment Works outside the city was pumped into the estuary during a 64 hour period in late April 2007.

The cause of the discharge was a complete failure of a pumping station at the Seafield works and a lack of any contingency plan to deal with such an incident.

It was noted by the sheriff that the incident had arisen from a sewage works serving a major city and had caused public anxiety.

The sheriff however considered this was not a case for the maximum fine available for this type of offence and also recognised that as Veolia pled guilty at the first opportunity, she was obliged to reduce by one third what would have been a £20,000 fine.

Colin Bayes, SEPA’s director of environmental protection and improvement, said: “This was a clearly avoidable incident.

“Major pumping stations pose a clear threat to the environment in the event of failure, and require preventative maintenance with major back up facilities.

“This was not evident in this case and, under different circumstances, there was the potential to cause serious environmental damage.

“So it was fortunate that the discharge was to this part of the Forth estuary, a large body of water which allowed significant dilution to minimise harm.

“A similar spill in another location may have resulted in far more serious damage and we hope this fine acts as a reminder to all operators that the prevention of pollution is an obligation, not a luxury.”

Sam Bond

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