Monday 16 July 2012

Whyte and Mackay plead Guilty to 20,000 Ltr Oil Spill in the Cromarty Firth !

News just in from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

News Release

16 July 2012


Whisky distillers, Whyte and Mackay Ltd, today were fined £9,000 after pleading guilty at Tain Sheriff Court to leaking nearly 20,000 litres of oil from their Invergordon plant into the waters of the Cromarty Firth, an internationally important habitat for birds including ospreys, whooper swans and greylag geese.

The spillage of the "fusel oil", a flammable by-product of the distillation process, occurred at the Whyte and Mackay Invergordon plant, near Dalmore in August 2011. The offence is a contravention of the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011.

The leak from an oil storage tank and bund, a surrounding wall designed to contain spills, was discovered by officers from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). Subsequent inspection by SEPA and the Health & Safety Executive confirmed the tank and bund as the source of the pollution. It was also concluded that the spill of fusel oil to the Cromarty Firth could have been avoided had adequate monitoring and maintenance of the fusel oil storage tank and the bund been taking place by Whyte and Mackay Ltd.

The Cromarty Firth, a large estuary within the Moray Firth, has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), a Special Protection Area (SPA) and a Ramsar site on account of the intertidal habitats and the breeding and non breeding birds present. It supports nationally important numbers of breeding osprey and common tern and, in the winter, of whooper swan, bar-tailed godwit and greylag goose.

Craig Harris, Head of the Wildlife and Environment Crime Unit at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said:

“This spillage of oil into the Cromarty Firth was entirely preventable. Industry must ensure the proper maintenance of their systems to ensure they meet their environmental obligations.

“The discharge was made to an internationally important and sensitive site. Whilst the environmental impact was thankfully minimal in this instance, that was purely down to good fortune. There could have been grave consequences if the leak had gone undetected or if it had occurred during the breeding season.”

It should be remembered however that the Cromarty Firth is no stranger to heavy industry and is often used to park up oil rigs en-route to the oil fields.

( photo's courtesy Wikipedia and BBC news )

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