Prosecution fines pitiful say campaigners
Prosecution fines 'pitiful' say campaigners
ANGLERS on the Rotten Calder, a tributary of the Clyde in south Lanarkshire, were sampling the sweet scent of success today after receiving £4000 in an out-of-court settlement from Scottish Water for dumping sewage sludge into their river and wiping out brown trout and salmon stocks.

Pursued as a claim for civil compensation by Fish Legal, the former Anglers’ Conservation Association, but labelled an “ex-gratia” payment by Scottish Water, the settlement follows a £4000 fine imposed on the water authority by Hamilton Sheriff Court in March last year for the incident at the Allers Waste Water Treatment Works in East Kilbride.

According to the environmental protection agency, SEPA, significant numbers of brown trout and salmon smolts were killed when a valve at the plant was left open in April 2007 allowing sewage slurry to enter a surface water drain and then into the river near General’s Bridge.

It was the second incident affecting the treatment works in two years and resulted in SEPA downgrading the river which runs through Calderglen Park, from “good” to “poor quality”.

East Kilbride Angling Club and anti-pollution campaigners say the level of fines levied on offenders is too low to act as a meaningful deterrent. Freedom of Information statistics obtained by the anglers show Scottish Water has been prosecuted 67 times in ten years for waste water offences.

Brendan McWilliams, secretary of East Kilbride Angling Club which leases the fishing rights on the river, praised the work of Fish Legal in securing the compensation, but condemned the prosecution fine as “pitiful”.

He said: “In no way is it a deterrent to an organisation the size of Scottish Water.”

According to statistics obtained by the club under the FoI Act, the water authority had paid out more than £360,000 in fines for waste water offences in more than ten years. The average was less than £5000.

“This was the second of two incidents at the Allers sewage works in two years and while the settlement allows us to recover our restocking costs, the level of fine imposed by the sheriff was pitiful,” he said.

Scottish Water said that its insurers had made an ex-gratia payment to the angling club and apologised for any incovenience caused by the sewage discharge. “On both individual occasions separate remedial work was carried out to ensure that similar incidents couldn’t happen again,” it said.

The out-of-court payment is the first success in Scotland this year for Fish Legal. It received £500 in costs. Its lawyer Guy Linley-Adams, said yesterday:

“A fine of £4000 in terms of the damage both to fishing and to the environment doesn’t really compensate. What we do hope is that by pursuing civil cases, the fine and any damages payments together will make it more expensive for authorities like Scottish Water and encourage it to invest in its plant and procedures.”

Fish Legal is currently backing 18 other cases throughout Scotland.

The East Kilbride club will be stocking the river with trout again this year, but McWilliams added: “We have not permitted any fishing for salmon for more than 10 years to allow the river to regenerate naturally. We won’t know for another two or three years what the effect on migratory species has been.”

The club, which has 140 members, plans to donate £500 of its damages to St Hilary’s primary school in East Kilbride, as part of the Clyde River Foundation’s “Clyde in the Classroom” project which introduces children to freshwater ecology and conservation by teaching them about the life-cycle of brown trout.

Related article