Cost of the clean-up
Equipment failure, tank leaks, vandalism, accidental spillage or illegal dumping are just a few ways in which VOCs can contaminate the environment.
As the Environment Agency is becoming more effective at bringing cases to court, environmental issues are also under increasing public and political scrutiny, leading to harsher penalties, fines and negative publicity for those who cause damage to the environment.
Below are a few examples where spills and leaks have occurred, and adequate procedures were not in place, to contain or detect these spills. This has led to the Environment Agency bringing legal action / court cases against the businesses involved, and the issuing of fines and orders to clean up the contamination.
The cost of a leak
Over a period of about 4 weeks in July 2005 some 653 tonnes of kerosene leaked from a small hole in the base of a tank at a storage facility at Waterston, Milford Haven.
The resultant pollution led to the destruction of habitat of the nearby Hazelbeach stream and the closure of the beach during August 2005.
The company was subsequently prosecuted by the Environment Agency Wales and pleaded guilty, were fined £29,900 and ordered to pay costs of £39,801. In addition, the company has estimated that the clean-up operation cost them around £3 million
The cost of equipment failure
A fuel distribution company admitted polluting a tributary of the River Clyst with 22,000 litres of red diesel.
The leak was traced to the company after significant quantities of oil was spotted in the watercourse, however initial checks showed no loss of stock on their computer system. Pressure tests and excavation revealed a hole in a supply pipe, leading to a fuel dispensing island.
Magistrates recognised the work, undertaken by the company, to remediate the environment, and fined them £5,000 with costs of £3,700.
More recently (2019) the Northern Ireland Environment Agency found red diesel discharging to the Ballyclare river from a culvert and this has led to actions being taken,
The cost of human error
A haulage firm was ordered to pay £6,867 in fines and costs after an oil interceptor overflowed, polluting the River Thames with thick black waste engine oil and causing significant damage to local wildlife.
The company admitted in court that they had failed to empty the interceptor, preventing it from operating correctly.
Around 40 swans were affected and some had to be rescued by the Swan Sanctuary in Shepperton.
The cost of vandalism
Oil from a forklift repair site ended up in a drain near Spalding resulting in one swan having to be cleaned up and the death of invertebrates.
The business was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay full Environment Agency costs of £4,000 by Spalding Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to polluting a tributary of Hammond Beck.
Environment Agency officers were told that an oil tank had been vandalised on the site and a pipe had been ripped off.
The business hadn’t realised there was a surface water drain underneath the area where the tank had stood and so hadn’t notified the Agency of the spill. Correspondingly, the environmental impact may have been reduced, if it had been realised sooner that the oil had entered the surface water drainage for the site.
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