Scottish Water fined again

Scottish Water has been fined for the second time in a week for discharging raw sewage into a waterway.

The company pled guilty on Monday (October 3) to the breach of its water licence and was fined £7,500. The breach refers to the Victoria Road pumping station in Brora for the period August 25 to September 1 2010.

A member of the public alerted the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) to the presence of dead fish in the Clyne Burn on September 1 2010. Upon investigation, SEPA officers found 55 dead trout and sewage fungus over a 1.4km stretch of the burn.

Tracing it to the Brora facility, further investigations found the discharge was caused by an airlock at the pumping station, which prevented the effluent from being pumped on. This caused the wet well to fill, and as the airlock was not cleared, spill over into the burn. The fault had gone undetected for seven days.

SEPA investigating officer Andrew Steel said: “Telemetry data provided by Scottish Water showed that the wet-well level in the pumping station rose to the spill level on 25 August and continued to stay above that level until operators attended the site on a routine inspection visit on 1 September. This means that for around seven days all sewage from the sewerage network upstream of the pumping station was discharged to the Clyne burn. Once the airlock was cleared the pumping station returned to full function.

“This situation could have been prevented if Scottish Water staff had checked and interpreted telemetry trends, alerting them to the fact that the wet well levels continued to be at a high level while pumps were running, for far longer than would be expected following heavy rainfall.”

The ruling follows a £6,000 fine, imposed on September 27, for a similar breach where sewage was discharged into Methven Burn killing more than 500 fish.

As with the Clyne discharge, correct telemetry procedures could have reduced the duration of the incident and mitigated the resulting pollution.

The ruling is one in a recent spate of verdicts which has also seen whiskey makers Highland Distillers fined £15,000 following the discharge of 4,000l of diesel into a local waterway, Welsh Water fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £4,000 in costs after pleading guilty to 35 breaches of its water licence pertaining to abstraction activity on the River Usk and Southern Water fined £25,000 and ordered to pay costs of £5,467 just yesterday (October 4) after discharging unscreened sewage into the Itchen Estuary, Southampton.

Will Parsons

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