Whyte and Mackay fined £9,000 over oil leak
WHISKY giant Whyte and Mackay has been fined £9,000 for leaking almost 20,000 litres of oil into an important nature habitat.
• Nearly 20,000 litres of oil was spilled at the company’s Invergordon plant in August 2011
• The Cromarty Firth, home to a number of bird species including ospreys and greylag geese, was affected by the leak
• Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) found that the leak could have been prevented by more effective monitoring and maintenance
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 leak affected the waters of the Cromarty Firth, an internationally important habitat for birds including ospreys, whooper swans and greylag geese.
The firm has been prosecuted under the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011, after the spill was discovered by officers from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa).
Sepa found that the spill could have been avoided if adequate monitoring and maintenance of the fusel oil storage tank and the bund, a surrounding wall designed to contain spills, had been taking place.
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.”
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.
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