£4k fine after contractors kill protected species

21st February 2013

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The firm managing a hydro-electric scheme in Perthshire has been fined £4,000 for repeatedly failing to prevent contractors from polluting the River Lyon and significantly damaging the habitat of a rare mussel

Shawater Limited pleaded guilty to allowing A&C Construction and Chic Kippen and Son, to carry out unlicensed work at its site on the banks of the River Lyon and the Inverinian Burn, which resulted in “extremely serious” incidents of silt pollution over 13 months.

An investigation by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) found that between September 2009 and October 2010, the contractors built a pipeline, ford and access track at the Inverinian Hydro Scheme without a licence under the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) Regulations 2011 (a CAR licence).

Shawater, which oversaw the construction, had a CAR licence for the site, but the permit did not cover these works.

The firm also failed to prevent silt from the work entering into the River Lyon and the Inverinian Burn, and as a result the waterways, which are home to endangered freshwater pearl mussels, were repeatedly polluted.

“This was an extremely serious case of pollution in what is a very important watercourse,” commented Brendan Craig, Sepa’s investigating officer.

“The involved parties failed time and time again to install the appropriate mitigation measures which, in turn, led to repeated pollution issues. This has had a significant impact on both the watercourse and surrounding ecosystems.

The silt pollution damaged the riverbed, killing and injuring freshwater pearl mussels, which are protected under the Habitats Directive and the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Perth Sheriff Court was told that it was unclear if the population in the Rover Lyon would recover.

In fining Shawater, sheriff Michael Fletcher highlighted the lengthy period of the breaches and the sensitive nature of the river system as aggravating factors in the case.

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