City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Seafield Sewage Spill Firm Gets £13,500 fine

By edg - Posted on 23 February 2008

Remember that smell back in April caused by the Seafield sewage leak when 120 million litres of sewage gushed into the Firth of Forth? A £13,500 fine was imposed today. Am I the only one who thinks this is a pathetic sum? The company, formerly known as Thames Water now Veolia Water Outsourcing Ltd, admitted it was at fault and it was only good luck that prevented, according to Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) in its press release below, "serious environmental damage."

£13,500 fine for Seafield sewage spill

22 Feb 2008 - EXT01 - D01

A sheriff at Edinburgh Sheriff Court today (22 February 2008) imposed a £13,500 fine on Veolia Water Outsourcing Ltd (previously known as Thames Water Services limited) the operators of Seafield Sewage Treatment Works.

This followed Veolia's guilty plea to causing or permitting Scottish Water to discharge screened sewage effluent to the Firth of Forth from Albert Road Pumping Station.

SEPA reported the matter to the Procurator Fiscal after an estimated 120 million litres of screened sewage bound for Seafield Sewage Treatment Works was discharged into the Forth Estuary during a 64 hour period between 20 and 23 April 2007.

The cause of the discharge was a complete failure of the Marine Esplanade Pumping Station at Seafield Sewage Treatment Works. No contingency plan was in place 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."



• Sewage treatment removes solids and debris from the final effluent being discharged to the environment. It also reduces the levels of contaminates such as ammonia, organic compounds and micro-organisms. However, it does not kill or remove all the micro-organisms.
• The exact charge Veolia pled guilty to was:

‘Between 20 April 2007 and 23 April 2007 both dates inclusive at Albert Road Waste Water Pumping Station, Edinburgh you VEOLIA WATER OUTSOURCING LIMITED PREVIOUSLY KNOWN AS THAMES WATER SERVICES LIMITED did cause or permit SCOTTISH WATER LIMITED REGISTERED COMPANY NUMBER 2518607 to carry on a controlled activity, namely an activity liable to cause pollution of the water environment in that screened sewage was discharged to the Firth of Forth from the Albert Road Waste Water Pumping Station outfall without the authority of an authorisation under the aftermentioned Regulations; CONTRARY to the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2005 Regulation 5 and 40(1)(a) and the Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003 Section 20(1)'