According to the Environment Agency, oil and fuels are the most reported pollutants in inland waters in the UK. Every year there are about 5,000 pollution incidents involving oil and fuels, the effects can be devastating for both the natural environment and the source of the leak.
The main causes of oil related water pollution are:
- Loss from storage facilities
- Spillage during delivery and collection
- Deliberate disposal of waste oil to drainage system
- Contaminated firewater run off
If found guilty of neglect, the source of the water pollution will be fined and required to pay costs in order to rectify the problem. The hidden costs are:
- Lost production
- Lost business
- Damaged reputation
- Decreased shareholder value
- Bad PR
- Increase insurance premiums
Although accidents will always happen it is the responsibility of each business to ensure that they have procedures in place in order to deal with any unexpected incidents. Below is a real life example of a company who was recently fined for what was deemed to be a preventable spill.
‘Poor accident prevention and emergency plans led to a chemicals firm being fined
£66,000 after a fire at its Gloucestershire factory’.
A swimming pool treatment chemicals supplier was fined £66,000 with £80,000 costs by Gloucester crown court. The company pleaded guilty to two charges related to a fire and chemical spill at its Gloucestershire factory.
For four years, the company had failed to adequately plan for such incidents, contravening regulation 4 of the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999 (COMAH) and section 33(1)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
A fire broke out at a factory on an industrial estate near Cheltenham. A series of explosions destroyed the premises. The A40 road was closed for 24 hours, the estate was evacuated and gaseous chlorine based compounds were detected up to 50 kilometres away. The Environment Agency, Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Health Protection Agency, Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service, the police and Thames Water all responded to the incident. As the fire was at a tier II COMAH site, it also had to be reported to the European Commission.
Chemicals stored on-site were also released into the neighbouring river Colne, a tributary of the Thames. The watercourse was polluted for 12km, killing 2,500 fish. The companies drainage plans for the site were out of date, preventing it from being immediately sealed off. Pollutants escaped into the Colne for 24 hours. The incidents were blamed on company’s failure to adopt an adequate accident prevention policy and emergency plan, in line with agency and HSE advice. The HSE investigator said that “given the incident’s severity, it was fortunate no one was killed”.
|Preventative Cost||Incident Cost|
|Spill Plan||£500||Fine £66,000|
|Spill Training||£1,000||Court Cost £80,000|
|5 Site Valves||£35,000²||Clean Up Costs £110,000²|
|Total Cost||£36,500||Total Costs £256,000|
|Estimated costs, real life story taken from ENDs Report May 2011|