Group of fishermen call for ‘lessons to be learned’ after toxic spill in River Fife
A fishing club has told how years of hard work and investment were “wiped out” when a Scottish Water worker accidentally dropped around 90 gallons of a toxic chemical into a Fife River.
The Scottish government agency was fined £ 6,700 this week for pouring Zetag coagulant into Eden near Cupar, killing at least 500 salmon and trout.
Dundee Sheriff Court learned that the fish died within hours, after the gelatinous substance – used in the water purification process – sucked oxygen out of the river.
Prosecutors said the accident was “entirely preventable” and the effects of the spill could last for several years.
Now the Eden Angling Association, a non-profit group that works to promote, restore and conserve the river, has called for lessons to be learned to avoid a repeat of the 2018 crash.
Thousands of juveniles killed
Secretary and Treasurer David Farmer said, “Words can never adequately express the feelings of our association members and the local community, as years of volunteerism invested in improving the river and its habitat are thus wiped out.
He said: “The Covid lockdowns have shown the importance of the river for the well-being of physical and mental health, not only for members of the fishing association, but for the community that uses the trails and the amounts maintained by the members of the association.
Mr Farmer said the incident might not have come to light without the “quick actions” from the public and the EAA. “The problem here is that in addition to smothering the obvious and countable salmon, sea trout and brown trout, the pollution event also killed the thousands of juvenile fry needed to maintain the future of the river. and the association.
The spill revealed ‘deficiencies’
The court heard on Monday that the spill occurred when a forklift driver accidentally punctured a 1,000-liter Zetag container as he attempted to remove it from storage.
The accident happened at the Cupar wastewater treatment plant. The worker managed to turn the container upside down to prevent further spillage, and an attempt was made to clean up the contamination by hosing down and moping through nearby surface water pipes that drain into the Eden.
The chemical also leaked from the site into the river in several places.
Staff did not immediately realize that the chemical had been washed away in the water, and they were unaware of the devastating impact it would have on wildlife.
A representative for Scottish Water told the court around £ 200,000 had been spent to fix the problem, to make sure it could not happen again.
Mr Farmer said: ‘It is good to see that justice has – finally – been seen to be done and to point out the shortcomings of this Scottish Government agency.
“But the lessons also need to be seen to be learned so that it never happens again.”
He said: “If Scottish Water were to work with the association to improve the river and its habitat for the benefit of all, it could help improve their status within the association and the community.
The impact could last for years
During its investigation, SEPA found that Scottish Water staff were unaware of the harmful effects of the chemical they were working with.
There was also a lack of training in handling chemicals.
It is believed the spill could impact salmon and trout numbers for up to five years.
Finance, Wildlife and Environmental Attorney Fiona Caldwell said: “This incident has been brought to SEPA’s attention by members of the public, in which case environmental damage has already been done.
“It was completely preventable. Scottish Water has not provided adequate training on the chemicals used, their handling or proper training in the event of a spill.
“This failure, the resulting damage to the environment and the impact on the local community, is unacceptable.”