COMMENT

INTERESTING to observe the approach of Scottish Water in the face of a civil claim for compensation on behalf of East Kilbride Angling Club which saw its efforts to manage and restore the somewhat unfortunately-named Rotten Calder in south Lanarkshire, to former glories as a trout and salmon stream.

The river, which runs through some of the most notorious pollution territory in Scotland before it joins the Clyde on the eastern edge of Glasgow, was hit twice by sewage slurry overflows from a water authority treatment works in East Kilbride – once in 2006 and again in 2007.

Scottish Water was fined £4000 last year for the second offence and has just delivered a further £4500 in an out-of-court settlement to the angling club and its backers Fish Legal, the new name for the former Anglers’ Conservation Association, now part of the Anglers’ Trust.

Scottish Water was at pains yesterday to correct any impression that this was a court award for “damages”. “It is an ex-gratia payment by our insurers,” a spokesman said. He also went to some length to stress that a statement by the Scottish environmental agency, SEPA, that the 2007 incident had been caused by a “faulty pump” without any standby equipment, was also incorrect.

The overflow of slurry was in fact caused by “a valve which was accidentally left open”, he said. The earlier incident was caused by vandals.

Along with a direct apology for the inconvenience, Scottish Water said that after each incident it had taken action to close all, except one, surface water drains which lead into the watercourse “to minimise the impact of a potential incident happening in future”.

This explanation, perhaps, might have allowed the anglers to sleep more easily this season were it not for the fact that as part of their claim for compensation, they went to the trouble under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain a record of the waste water convictions against Scottish Water dating back 12 years.  It totals more than 70. The average fine was under £5000.

In simple commonsense terms, this just doesn’t seem to add up as much of a deterrent, especially to the larger commercial interests, or as an incentive to invest in stringent safeguards before beginning operations even if they know they’ll be hounded for additional civil compensation by Fish Legal.

We’ll keep an eye on the progress of Fish Legal’s 18 other Scottish cases to see how they progress.

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