Scotland’s environmental regulator has issued a warning to businesses to comply with national environmental laws or run the risk of prosecution and heavy fines.
The warning issued by Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) comes just days after Scottish Water was prosecuted and fined £6,700 over the toxic spill in the River Eden.
Scottish Water was punished for an incident in October 2018, in which a chemical leak from the Cupar Waste Water Treatment Work polluted the Eden causing the death of hundreds of fish.
Sepa has reminded businesses that Scotland’s environmental laws is non-negotiable and that those found not to comply will be vigorously investigated.
Sepa’s chief executive, Terry A’Hearn, said: “Compliance with Scotland’s environmental laws is non-negotiable.
“Our One Planet Prosperity regulatory strategy is focused on two aims
“First, holding to account those who do the wrong thing and second, supporting Scottish businesses to do the right thing and to innovate and thrive in a low-carbon world.
“It is important that Scottish Water is making improvements to ensure this particular type of incident is not repeated.”
Hundreds of fish were killed
The water company admitted at Dundee Sheriff Court to killing at least 500 wild salmon and brown trout after pouring the toxic chemical into the watercourse.
Sepa became aware of an unauthorised discharge of 400 litres of the chemical Zetag from Cupar Waste Water Treatment Works in October 2018 following reports from the public of dead fish.
The source of the discharge was traced back to a chemical leak following a spill from the Scottish Water-run Cupar Waste Water Treatment Works, both directly into the river at various points, and through surface water drains after the spill was hosed into the drains during an attempted clean up.
“The escaped chemical, Zetag, impacted on the oxygen in the river water, resulting in what the environmental regulator said was a “major fish kill”.
Sepa’s investigation found a lack of staff knowledge on the effects of the chemical as well as a lack of training on chemical handling and emergency spill response.
Proper risk assessments for moving containers of Zetag had also not been undertaken.
The spill had a drastic effect with the regeneration of fish stocks expected to take several years despite no ongoing environmental damage.
Ashley Clunie, Fife, Dundee and Angus Unit Manager at Sepa, added: “Chemical spills can cause significant damage to the delicate ecosystems which our rivers and waterways sustain – so it is crucial that the appropriate safety measures are always in place to ensure that unauthorised discharges, even accidental, are prevented.
“In this instance, Scottish Water did not have the appropriate measures in place, and this particular incident caused considerable damage to the River Eden.
“We hope that the fine serves as a reminder to others that compliance is non-negotiable and enforcement action will be taken against those who fail to comply with Scotland’s environmental regulations.”