Scottish Water fined £6,000 over Perthshire pollution

Scottish Water was fined a total of £6,000 earlier today, 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.

The sewage discharge, which resulted in the death of more than 560 fish, contravened two separate conditions in the licence. The first was the failure to provide a telemetry alarm system, connected to a 24-hour response system in the event of an overflow.

The second contravention relates to the condition that permits discharge to the water environment via the emergency overflow only in specific circumstances: when the pumping station is inoperative as a result of an electrical power failure, rising main failure or blockage of the downstream sewer. Investigations found that none of these scenarios were applicable when the discharge occurred.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) investigated the matter following reports of dead fish in the Methven Burn. SEPA officers traced the source of the problem to an emergency overflow pipe from Methven sewage treatment works. Investigations showed partially treated sewage was discharged via an outfall pipe for a period of time on September 4-5 2010 and that no alarm had been activated.

SEPA investigating officer Gail Castle said: “This was a serious pollution incident. If Scottish Water had installed the telemetry alarm system, as required by the conditions of their licence, the impact of this event could have been much reduced. If Scottish Water had been aware of the spill as soon as it happened, they would have been able to respond accordingly and perhaps limit the amount of sewage that ended up in the Methven Burn.

“The Methven Burn is a tributary of the East Pow, (part of the River Tay Special Area of Conservation), and a discharge of partially treated sewage, with elevated nutrient levels, is very serious. As well as this pollution posing a risk to the environment it also raised public health considerations, as members of the public could have come into contact with the sewage pollution in the watercourse.”

The ruling follows news last week that Welsh Water had been fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £4,000 in costs after pleading guilty to 35 breached of its water licence pertaining to abstraction activity on the River Usk.

Will Parsons

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