Scottish Water has been fined nearly £7000 after a fish killing chemical was flushed into a Fife river.
The supplier plead guilty to the water pollution which resulted in the death of at least 500 trout and salmon in the River Eden.
Around 400 litres of a chemical coagulant were discharged into the river in October 2018 after its contained was punctured by a forklift truck.
Dundee Sheriff Court heard that at the Cupar Waste Water Treatment Works on October 2, 2018, the driver of the forklift hit a large chemical vessel while attempting to move it from storage with the forks rupturing it causing around 500 litres to flood out into the forecourt.
The forklift operator managed to turn the container over to try and stop further spillage and then moved it to an unbunded corner of the site – an area without a spill containment system.
An attempt was made to clean up the spill by hosing and mopping it into nearby surface water drains which discharge into the River Eden.
But the chemical also leaked from the spill site to the rear of the works and entered the river in several locations and the punctured container left in the unbunded area spilled further toward a water drain.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) was alerted later that day when members of the public reported dead fish in the river.
Fiona Caldwell, Procurator Fiscal, wildlife and environment, said: “This incident was brought to the attention of SEPA by members of the public, at which point the environmental damage was already done.
“It was entirely avoidable. Scottish Water failed to provide adequate training in relation to the chemicals used, their handling or appropriate spill training.
“That failure, the resultant damage to the environment and the impact on the local community, is unacceptable.
“The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service takes a rigorous approach to environmental crime and we are committed to taking effective and appropriate prosecutorial action.”
SEPA officers inspected the site and identified where the chemical had entered the River Eden. They also found that Scottish Water employees lacked awareness of the harmful effects of the chemical and the importance of preventing it from entering the environment.
Inspectors said there was a lack of training around chemical handling, site staff were not appropriately trained in emergency spill response and were unaware that the surface water drains on site discharged into the river.
Most of the fish killed were brown trout but there were also salmon and sea trout, with the incident having serious financial consequences for the local angling club and is likely to have an impact on salmon and trout numbers for four or five years.
The company pled guilty to a charge under section 20(3)(a) of the Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003, and was fined £6700.
A company spokeswoman said: “We take our environmental responsibilities very seriously and since the incident have taken action to reduce the risk of a recurrence at the Waste Water Treatment Works.
“This includes changing the way the substance involved – a chemical used in the treatment process – is stored and handled.
“We have also made improvements to drainage on-site and provided improved training for staff.”