3 February 2014

Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouse Ltd has been fined £12,000 after pleading guilty at Ayr Sheriff Court to failing to prevent the spillage of 6600 litres of whisky spirit contrary to the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 and the Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003.

The court heard how on 6 September 2011, a tanker delivery of 27,500 litres of whisky spirit was delivered to Glen Catrine’s site in Catrine. The spirit was then pumped to one of the site’s external storage tanks by an operator opening the relevant valves via computer.

It transpired that the spirit had been sent to a full tank rather than the empty one that was intended. When a member of staff later observed liquid spraying from one of the tanks the pumping was stopped.

A drain valve in the bund surrounding the storage tanks had been left open, which meant 5000 of the 6600 litres of spirit had drained out to the River Ayr.

Following the case, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) reminded companies of the importance of ensuring the environmental risks in their operations are explored and that steps are taken to prevent pollution, including training staff to deal with any issues.

David Wallace, SEPA’s reporting officer, commented: “Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouse Limited’s site is more or less bounded on three sides by a loop of the River Ayr, so minimising the risk of pollution entering the water should be a top priority.

“While sending the spirit to the wrong tank appears to have been caused by human error, there were no contingency arrangements to prevent this kind of accident causing pollution. Although a system could have been installed to automatically open the correct valves to pick the correct tank it was not activated. In addition, although there were alarms to tell operators when the tanks were 80% full they were routinely filled above that level. Gauges and alarms to warn when the tanks were 92% full had not been connected to the control system.

“The bund around the storage tanks, which is designed to contain any spill, had a drain valve leading directly to the River Ayr. This had been left open after draining rainwater. The situation was further exacerbated by the absence of staff training for managing spills.

“Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouse Limited has now taken steps to correct these failings, but companies should not wait until there is a pollution incident before they take steps to prevent such an incident happening. SEPA officers are more than happy to provide advice on such matters, and help prevent an accident having wide reaching environmental, and financial, impacts.”