SCOTLAND’S largest independent whisky bottling plant has been fined £12,000 after 5,000 litres of the spirit was spilled into the River Ayr.
The incident happened at Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouse’s site, at Catrine in East Ayrshire, when a valve on a tanker lorry containing 27,500 litres was opened via a computer and the liquid was in error sent to a full tank, which overflowed into the river.
A member of staff spotted liquid spraying from one of the tanks and the pumping was immediately stopped. The spill was equivalent to 7,143 bottles.
The spillage was reported to the procurator fiscal by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) and officials from the company appeared at Ayr Sheriff Court yesterday.
Sepa’s reporting officer David Wallace said the firm, which pled guilty to the charge, had failed to take the steps necessary to prevent the spillage.
The whisky, worth thousands of pounds, was 67 per cent strength, the court heard. It is not known whether the product had already been matured in casks or was in its raw state.
The charge stated the firm’s failure to prevent the spillage had contravened the Water Environment Regulations and the Water Environment and Water Services Act.
Mr Wallace said: “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.”
He added that gauges and alarms to warn when the tanks were almost full had not been connected to the control system.
A “bund” around the storage tanks, designed to contain any spill, had a drain valve leading directly to the river, which had been left open after draining rainwater.
Some of the whisky – totalling 1,600 litres – was contained in the bund but the rest, totalling 5,000 litres, overflowed into the river.
Mr Wallace added: “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.”
The firm, which was founded 30 years ago to bottle whisky for the chain of retail shops attached to the Loch Lomond Distillery, produces more than 36.5 million bottles of whisky, vodka, gin, rum and brandy a year, according to its website.
A spokeswoman for the Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouse refused to comment.
Procurator fiscal Sara Shaw said: “The risk of pollution of the river should have been one of the considerations at the forefront of the company’s policies.”