18 Aug 2022

NI Water fined £40,000 at Derry court over pollution incident which saw poisonous matter 'potentially harmful to aquatic life’ enter river

Northern Ireland Water Limited has been fined £40,000 at Derry Crown Court for a pollution charge the judge said had been met with ‘extraordinary complacency.’ The offence occurred on February 15 2017 when a polluting matter was released into the Moyola River from a waste water treatment works. The court was told that at 2.24 a.m. an alarm sounded in the Operations Room at Altnagelvin. However, a decision was made to wait until 8am before the Area Manager was informed. He then despatched staff who arrive on site at 10.30am. Samples taken from the river revealed a Biochemical Oxygen Demand reading of 1070 msg per litre which was 142 times the EU Directive. Judge Philip Babington said that the discharge contained ‘a noxious, poisonous and polluting matter which was potentially harmful to aquatic life’ and a prosecution barrister said it was ‘completely preventable’. The court heard that the decision to wait until 8am was ‘a human decision’ even though the person making the decision knew there was a potential for a discharge. He added ‘the remedial work was far too slow’ and the judge said ‘I regard the initial response as being particularly serious that it was known that a discharge could have been an outcome of the alarm'. He then imposed a fine of £40,000.

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