Scotland pollution accidents soar 50% : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Revealed: pollution accidents soar 50% Source: The Sunday Herald Publication date: 2000-06-04

The contamination of our water is getting worse. The number of accidents spilling oil, sewage and chemicals into Scotland's lochs, rivers and coastal waters is on the increase. The latest statistics, revealed to the Sunday Herald, show that water pollution incidents have rocketed by 50% over the last three years. There were 179 in 1997-98, 261 in 1998-99 and 282 in 1999- 2000, all serious enough to kill fish, foul birds, interfere with business or provoke many public complaints.

According to the figures, which were compiled by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), the largest category of incident last year was pollution by sewage which happened 81 times. There were also 61 oil spills and 54 leaks of minerals and trade effluent.

"These figures give the lie to SEPA's repeated assurances that water pollution is under control in Scotland," claimed Dr Richard Dixon, head of research with Friends of the Earth Scotland. He called for stronger measures to prevent pollution and heavier fines on polluters found guilty of breaking the law.

SEPA accepts that the trend is disappointing, but points out that it has been successfully lobbying for new statutory powers to help prevent leakages. In the last financial year the agency initiated 22 successful prosecutions for breaching water pollution regulations.

According to information posted on its website last month these included:

lGM Mining Ltd being fined #16,000 for five water pollution offences at an open-cast coal mine in Greengairs; lHighland Council being fined #15,000 for spilling diesel oil at the Lochaber Leisure Centre; lNorth of Scotland Water Authority twice being fined #5000 for sewage pollution of burns in Aberdeenshire:

"SEPA has a clear enforcement policy," said the agency's head of water policy, Colin Bayes. "Persistent negligence will lead to prosecution." He cautioned that there was unlikely to be any short- term decline in the number of sewage pollution incidents because of the enormous investment required to replace Scotland's aging Victorian sewers. "We are suffering from years of underinvestment in sewage treatment infrastructure," he said.

But Bayes pointed out that the Scottish Executive was now introducing new regulations to curb spillages of oil and other contaminants. This would not bring the number of accidents down overnight, he warned, "but I have no doubt at all that the figures should start to reduce over the next few years".

The Executive has also promised to establish a new system of "works notices" which will enable SEPA to serve statutory notices on potential polluters requiring them to take immediate action to reduce the risk.

Despite escalating pollution incidents, Bayes argued that the environmental quality of Scotland's waterways was improving. Last week, SEPA's West Region launched a new water review which said 97% of rivers, 93% of lochs and 96% of coastal waters and estuaries contained top-quality water.

Environmentalists, however, say that the whole environment of river catchment areas is in decline. "The ecological quality of our rivers is being degraded by pollution, neglect and mismanagement," said George Baxter from the Worldwide Fund for Nature in Scotland. "What we need is to adopt whole river catchment plans from mountaintop to estuary, instead of the fragmented approach we have at present."

-- Martin Thompson (, June 06, 2000

Moderation questions? read the FAQ