SEPA names and shames industries failing the environment

The Scottish Environmental Protection agency has published the results of its annual assessment of the environmental performance of regulated industrial sites.

SEPA monitors the performance of just under 200 large industrial sites which are required to meet certain environmental standards to be allowed to continue operating.

The agency then publishes its Operating Perfomance Assessment (OPA) and Pollution Hazard Appraisals (PHA) which mark how well a facility is managing to meet its targets and minimize its environmental impact, and has just released the figures for 2005.

Operators who have been subject to an unsatisfactory OPA will be subject to increased regulatory activity which may include additional inspection activity or specific audits.

The vast majority of Scotland’s largest or most complex industrial sites, 94%, have met the standards set by the agency when it issued their licences.

But there are still those who are failing to make the grade.

In the energy sector SGL Technical Ltd of Ross-shire got pulled up for its for poor recording of information and for carrying out maintenance without full consideration of the environmental impacts.

There were also unspecified incidents when it failed to comply with the conditions of its permit.

The only metal worker whose activities were not up to scratch was aluminium smelter Alcan Primary Metal Europe of Fort William, where key staff were found to lack detailed knowledge of the requirements of their pollution prevention and control permit.

Once again, there were predictably incidents of failure to comply with the conditions of that permit.

There was only one firm that failed to satisfy SEPA in the minerals sector, Ibstock Scottish Brick Ltd in Uddington.

The facility failed to stay within limits set for its emissions of hydrogen fluoride and owners had failed to install abatement systems which had been required as a condition of the issuing of the permit.

SEPA is taking further action against the company to ensure they are installed.

The waste sector had a number of problems, with four failing firms.

The Garlaff landfill site in Skares had a number of deep seated fires burning within the waste mass itself during the period of analysis, and while it had managed to extinguish three of the five fires through improved capping, gas extraction and the recirculation of leachate, two were still burning as SEPA produced its report.

The Mains of Taymouth landfill site near Kenmore has failed to submit data returns to the agency so SEPA was chasing them up, while SMW Ltd’s Daldowie Sludge Plant in Glasgow also failed to impress.

The plant has failed to complete work to improve the dispersion of emissions after notice had been served asking it to do so in 2004. Work on the improvements had taken place throughout 2005.

Total Waste Management of Peterhead, meanwhile, had a poor knowledge of the requirements of its permit and infrastructure was inadequately maintained.

It is perhaps worth mentioning that the chemicals industry was the only sector covered by the Operator Performance Assessment which was given a clean bill of health, with no offending companies.

Stephen Elliott, chief executive of the Chemical Industries Association said: “We are pleased to see that our sector continues to maintain high standards of environmental performance in Scotland – a performance that we believe is further strengthened by our voluntary Responsible Care programme and sustainable development goals.

“Whilst recognising that we are a high hazard industry responding, quite rightly, to a strict regulatory regime, we are also firmly of the view that operators whose performance is above average should be considered for fewer regulatory interventions and potentially benefit from a regulatory dividend.

“This would then allow SEPA to better allocate more of its finite resources to the poorer performers, ultimately gaining more environmental benefit in Scotland.

“In return, we also recognise that significant financial penalties should be considered in the event of deliberate non-compliance.”

Of the 59 permitted companies which do not fit neatly into any of the key sectors, five were considered to be unsatisfactory by SEPA.

Dales Dry Dock in Aberdeen made unauthorised discharges, recorded data poorly and made bad use of information.

The intriguingly named Lower Inchdrewer Pig Finishing Unit in Banff sparked repeated complaints about the smell which required SEPA to put an action plan in place to address the problem.

The action plan was not fully adhered to which led to an enforcement order being issued. The unit has since complied with the plan.

Seafood giant Marine Harvest (Scotland) was also subject of an enforcement order in Fort William, for failing to comply with numerous licensing conditions relating to the environmental assessment of the site.

Norboard Ltd a chip board manufacturer in Nairn was rapped for repeated incidents due to equipment failures with potential to affect a local watercourse.

The same company’s facilities in Stirling, which required a separate licence, was also flagged up as unsatisfactory, this time after complaints were made following the failure of an abatement plant.

Tullis Russell Co Ltd, a paper making and combustion plant in Glenrothes, also failed to meet SEPA’s standards after a number of complaints were made about its practices.

An enforcement order was issued.

SEPA’s Audrey Terry, central unit co-coordinator, said: “The assessments and appraisals are undertaken by SEPA annually and the outcome of the combined evaluation helps to determine regulatory effort, including inspection frequency which is then incorporated into our annual inspection programme.

“It is important that we work with those companies whose performance is less than satisfactory and identify how the management and operation of sites can be improved.

“However SEPA will not shy away from taking appropriate enforcement action in relation to those sites which consistently fail to meet our standards.”

Sam Bond

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie