Polluting Trent costs Texaco over £12,000

On Monday 19 May 2003, Texaco pleaded guilty to one charge of causing polluting matter, namely oil, to enter the Colwick Dyke, a tributary of the River Trent, from their terminal on the Colwick Industrial Estate.

On Monday 19 May 2003, at Nottingham Magistrates Court, Texaco pleaded guilty to one charge of causing polluting matter, namely oil, to enter the Colwick Dyke, a tributary of the River Trent, from their terminal on the Colwick Industrial Estate.

The charge was brought by the Environment Agency under section 85 of the Water Resources Act 1991. The company was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £2306.16 costs.

Speaking after the case, John Brewington, an Environment Agency Officer involved in the investigation, said: ’Companies handling materials such as oil, which can pose a serious threat to the environment, must ensure that their systems are properly checked and maintained. Failure to do so can lead to pollution and environmental damage and the Environment Agency takes incidents of this nature very seriously.’

For the Environment Agency, Virginia Williams told the court that on 20 December 2001 the Environment Agency received a report of oil on the River Trent at Stoke Bardolph, Nottingham, causing iridescence and a strong smell of oil. Investigations by an Agency officer traced the source up the Colwick Dyke to a surface water pipe draining the Colwick Industrial Estate.

At the industrial estate, Texaco confirmed, under interview, that oil had leaked from an underground pipe at the Texaco Terminal site after a hole in the pipe had developed. These underground pipes had not been tested in the last five years.

The diesel then flowed into drains and was pumped through oil product interceptors, which discharged oil into the industrial estate’s surface water sewer. From there, it discharged into Colwick Dyke. When quantities of oil are detected in the final interceptor an alarm sounds in the terminal control room to alert the shift controller. There is a manual outlet valve that can be closed to prevent loss.

Texaco’s management informed the Agency that it had believed prior to this incident that the interceptor alarm was linked to an automatic cut off switch in the final interceptor, which would automatically switch off the interceptor pump that receives drainage from the first interceptor into the final interceptor. The shift controller was informed at staff training that this was the case.

The interceptor alarm did sound on the day of the incident. However, due to the alarm giving a message stating that there was oil in the first interceptor, not the final interceptor, the shift controller did not carry out Texaco’s emergency procedures, which require personnel to carry out set actions once a leakage is discovered.

The shift controller checked the first interceptor and found no abnormalities and thought, as per his training, that the interceptor pump would automatically switch off if any oil was detected in the final interceptor, and therefore did not take any further action. The shift controller was alerted to the leak later that day by Environment Agency officers.

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