£10k fine after toxic compound pollutes SSSI

12th August 2013


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  • Prosecution ,
  • Pollution & Waste Management ,
  • Transport

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IEMA

Allowing toxic paint sludge to pollute the Fal estuary in Cornwall has resulted in Falmouth-based ship-repair company, A&P being fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £14,300 costs

The estuary, a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) and a special area of conservation, was found to be polluted on 29 September 2011. The source was traced by the Environment Agency to Falmouth Docks where A&P was refurbishing a ship. The company was using high-pressure jets to remove antifouling paint from the vessel’s hull. Although special hoppers collected most of the paint flakes and sludge from the process, some escaped, eventually entering a drain linked to the estuary.

Samples of the discharge were found to contain tributyltin (TBT), which, until 2008 when it was banned, was widely used in antifouling paint to prevent marine organisms attaching themselves to the hulls of ships. TBT is highly toxic and does not easily break down in the environment.

A&P pleaded guilty to causing a polluting discharge to enter tidal waters and being in breach of its local authority permit. Since the incident, the company has used hessian filters to capture potentially harmful substances from its paint removal operations.


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