A&P Falmouth Ltd fined £10,000 for waste paint discharge
A&P Falmouth Ltd has been fined £10,000 with costs of over £14,000 awarded to the Environment Agency and Cornwall Council at a hearing held in Truro Magistrates Court on 05 July 2013. The company pleaded guilty to an offence under ‘Environmental Permitting’ Regulations relating to an incident that took place on 29 September 2011 when waste paint containing toxic substances was unintentionally discharged into the Fal Estuary from the Queen Elizabeth Dry Dock causing a visible plume the approximate size of a football pitch. Toxic substances including TBT (tributyltin), copper, zinc and lead were contained within the material discharged into the estuary which is part of a Special Area of Conservation and close to Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
The ship repair business operated by A&P Falmouth Ltd includes the stripping of paint from vessels and the application of new surface coatings in dry dock. Due to the nature of this activity and the associated emissions a ‘permit’ is required under environmental legislation which is issued and regulated by the Public Health and Protection Service (PH&P) of Cornwall Council. This contains conditions intended to ensure that pollution is prevented and/or controlled, and includes conditions relating to discharges to water drafted by the Environment Agency. Cornwall Council and the Environment Agency therefore took the step of taking joint proceedings for the incident, which had been reported anonymously, and involved an Environment Agency officer taking a boat out on the estuary to take samples of the water.
The waste paint discharged into the estuary on 29 September 2011 was from the RFA Cardigan Bay which was in dry dock for a complete refit, including removal of antifouling paint from the entire hull using Ultra High Pressure water blasting prior to recoating.
A&P Falmouth Ltd apologised for the discharge and reported that this was an isolated incident caused due to the washing out with hoses of a paint sludge that had fallen onto the floor of the dry dock. The company has since taken measures to prevent any similar incidents from occurring, including the use of hessian filters.
Rebecca Kirk, Cornwall Council Assistant Head of Service for Community and Environmental Protection said: “Cornwall Council’s Public Health and Protection Service is responsible for regulating over 180 ‘Environmental Permits’ held by businesses in the county. Most of these permits are concerned with preventing and controlling discharges to air, but some permits also control water discharges as is the case with A&P Falmouth Ltd. It is extremely rare for enforcement action to be taken against businesses carrying out activities requiring a permit because the vast majority recognise the importance of fulfilling their environmental and legal responsibilities. However, in this particular instance A&P Falmouth fell significantly short of this standard by failing to meet the requirements of their permit. This meant that there was little option but to take enforcement action, as is the public expectation in such cases especially where the release of toxic substances in the environment are concerned. I am pleased we were able to work in partnership and take joint proceedings with the Environment Agency, who had responded to the incident at the time of occurrence and who regulate waste and water offences. It is worth acknowledging A&P Falmouth’s guilty plea in this matter and I am pleased that it has been brought to a conclusion and that A&P Falmouth have implemented measures designed to prevent any future incidents of this nature.”
Story posted 10 July 2013