A former company director of a Lanark business, has been found guilty at Perth Sheriff Court.
Businessman Andrew John Bailie was fined £1,200 after the discharge of liquid fertiliser into a protected watercourse in Perthshire.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) received complaints from members of the public on September 23, 2015 who had discovered discoloured water and saw dead fish in the Ordie Burn, which is part of the River Tay Special Area of Conservation.
SEPA officers carried out an investigation and identified that the incident was caused as a result of the spreading operation of the man-made liquid fertiliser Anaerobic Digestate at Little Tulliebelton Farm, near Bankfoot, Perthshire.
Bailie, a former company director of Digestate Management Services Limited, whose address is given as care of Alan Ritchie at 25 Hope Street in the town, pled guilty to failing to comply with the regulations on storing the fertilizer prior to it being spread. Whilst Mr Bailie was not on site during the spreading operation he was aware that the Anerobic Digestate holding tank was located only three or four metres from the watercourse which is too close in case of any leak or overflow from the tank. This is in contravention of General Binding Rule 18 which states that no fertiliser may be stored within ten metres of a watercourse.
SEPA officers found that during the spreading activity the tank had overflowed due to a blockage and a volume of the liquid fertiliser had spilled into Ordie Burn at that point. As a result of further investigation they also found evidence of pollution having entered the Ordie Burn.
SEPA submitted a report to the Procurator Fiscal.
Terry A’Hearn, SEPA’s Chief Executive, said: “Every day SEPA works to protect and enhance the environment, and we are clear that environmental compliance is non-negotiable. This is at the core of our One Planet Prosperity Strategy.
“Andrew John Baillie failed to follow the regulations that are in place to protect the environment, and this resulted in pollution to the water environment with significant impact to trout and salmon populations.
“This incident was not only unacceptable, it was also avoidable. In instances like this it is our job to hold such operators to account. We hope this outcome sends a strong message to everybody operating in Scotland. SEPA is here to make sure that action will be taken if you don’t pay attention to your environmental responsibilities.”
Calum McGregor, SEPA’s Reporting Officer, said: “Whilst Anaerobic Digestate is a useful fertiliser if used and stored properly, it is a highly polluting liquid which can cause significant harm to fish if it is allowed to enter a watercourse. The discharge of Anaerobic Digestate to the watercourse caused a significant number of fish to be killed, mainly salmonoids, over a 2.2 kilometre stretch of the Ordie Burn and 1 kilometre stretch of the Wynnie Burn. It is expected it will be a number of years before the river fully recovers.
“If Mr Bailie had ensured that the storage of Anaerobic Digestate complied with the regulations, and that those working for him at the site were adequately trained, then this incident could have been avoided. We hope this ruling will serve as a warning to others.”