A paper merchant was fined £2,000 today (Monday) after pleading to guilty to a pollution offence after oil leaked into a watercourse from a tank on its premises. Antalis Limited, which has a distribution depot at the Pilsworth Road Industrial Estate in Bury, was also ordered to pay £1,530 in costs to the Environment Agency.
Tim Warn, prosecuting for the Agency, told Bury Magistrates’ Court how clean surface water at the site is carried through a surface water drainage system and then discharges, via an inlet, into a reservoir known as Long Lodge.
Antalis has two oil storage tanks on site, one to hold diesel for its vehicles and one containing oil for the site’s heating system. Oil is pumped from the latter tank to the boiler through a pipe running under the yard.
On 19 May 2003 the Agency received reports of oil pollution in Long Lodge. When officers arrived to investigate they found that the inlet next to Antalis’ premises was running with water with a sheen of oil on top. There was also a strong oily smell. The officers took samples and the Agency’s emergency works unit was contacted to carry out clean-up work in Long Lodge.
Although there was some evidence of oil in the yard itself there were no obvious signs of oil leaks. The Agency asked Antalis to find drainage plans, and also checked the drainage system at a nearby sand quarry premises which also discharges water into the inlet, but found no evidence of oil contamination there.
Once Antalis had located the plans for the drainage system, it was clear that the surface water drain had an oil interceptor designed to catch and contain oil in the event of a leak. It was located at one side of the building behind a fence, and the area was completely overgrown, suggesting that no cleaning or maintenance had happened for some time.
Antalis’ management admitted that they had not been aware of the interceptor’s existence. They arranged for it to be cleaned, and later told the Agency that around 22 tonnes of silt and liquid had been removed. Antalis also arranged for heating engineers to check the pipework between the tank and the boiler.
The Agency interviewed a representative of Antalis under caution. He said that heating oil had been delivered on 9 May and that there would have been about 16,000 litres of oil in the tank. Because of the time of year only a small amount of oil would have been used in the ten days between the delivery and the incident.
The same day that oil pollution was reported in Long Lodge, there had been no hot water in the Antalis canteen and an inspection of the heating system had revealed the heating oil tank to be empty. Because they could not see any signs of a leak, Antalis’ staff thought the oil might have been stolen.
However, once the drainage plans had been obtained at the Agency’s request, Antalis got contractors to excavate the yard and replace the oil pipe. The ground was discoloured and smelled of oil. Consequently they concluded that the oil feed pipe had leaked, and the oil had escaped into the ground and the surface water drain.
Mr Warn told the court that just over a month before the incident, one of Antalis’ oil tanks had overflowed because of a faulty level gauge. The Agency had investigated and reminded the company in writing that it needed to take care when handling oil if pollution of Long Lodge was to be avoided.
The court also heard that the effects of the oil on Long Lodge were considerable. Reeds in the stream have died and as the incident happened during the spawning season, it is likely to have affected Long Lodge’s fish population.
Copright 2004 The Environment Agency
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