Water pollution (see also: Procedure) - Welsh Water v Gower Chemicals (15 June 1998) Crown Court

United Kingdom

In October 1996 two workers of Neith and Port Talbot Council died while working in a chamber at a pumping station in Crymlyn Borrows near Swansea. Following the incident the Health & Safety Executive prosecuted the local authority under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the local authority was fined £150,000. It was established following an investigation of the incident that both workers had suffocated from fumes of CFC-11 and a tracer compound methyl styrene. Both substances were tracked back to the Gower Chemicals site. The discharge of these chemicals was not consented under Gower Chemicals trade effluent agreement with Welsh Water. Welsh Water therefore brought four charges under the Water Industry Act 1991. Three charges were brought under Section 121(5) of the Water Industry Act 1991 for discharging effluents other than those described in the trade effluent agreement, discharging substances liable to produce toxic vapours, and discharging to sewer at an unauthorised location. A charge for discharging material likely to prejudicially affect the treatment and disposal of the contents of the sewer under Section 111(1) and (3) of the Water Industry Act 1991 was the fourth charge. Gower Chemicals pleaded guilty to discharging substances liable to produce toxic vapours and discharging to sewer at an unauthorised location. It transpired that while unloading a tanker containing the CFC liquids a spill occurred some of which flowed into drains which Gower Chemicals thought went to a soakaway. In fact, the drains led to a sewer. In Court Gower Chemicals was criticised for failing to report the loss of the CFCs and was held to be negligent in not knowing that the drain in question led to a sewer. The Court fined Gower Chemicals £50,000 for each of the two charges and ordered the company to pay £33,000 in costs. (ENDS Report 281, Page 51)