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Tuesday, 10 February 2009 20:43

Polluters pay for chemical cocktail

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Fish Legal has won £1,500 damages on behalf of one of its Welsh member clubs after a chemical cocktail polluted the River Sirhowy.

Fish Legal fishing news

On 27th April 2007, just weeks into the start of the open season, John Otter, Secretary of the Islwyn & District Angling Club in Gwent was called by an alarmed member of the club who had spotted the discolouration in the river. Stretches of the River Sirhowy owned by the club at Blackwood were running white and thousands of fish were killed.

The Environment Agency Wales (EAW) traced the pollution to a chemical treatment plant owned by a large private company, FKI Switchgear, situated on the banks of the Sirhowy. Employees at the plant had been decommissioning tanks on site and had emptied treated effluent from their zinc-plating operations onto the floor of the treatment plant building. The effluent – including sulphuric acid – found its way into a surface water drain that discharged into the river, killing fish on an alarming scale.

The Sirhowy River in WalesFish Legal then made a claim against the company on behalf of the Islwyn Anglers. But the compensation for restocking wasn’t easily won. Despite being successfully prosecuted by EAW for breaches of the Water Resources Act 1991 and the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975 the company was determined to defend the civil claim. Fish Legal was forced to issue proceedings at court before the company finally agreed to settle.

John Otter, of the Islwyn & District AC, explained: “We lost salmon, sea trout, salmon parr and brown trout. At the time the river was running high so lots of the dead fish would have been swept downstream so we’ll never really know how much damage was done. If you lose a large salmon, you can’t just introduce a comparable fish. Losing an adult fish has an effect on populations for many years to come. The river for a couple of miles downstream of where the pollution entered will take a considerable amount of time to recover.”

Justin Neal, the Fish Legal solicitor who handled the case, commented: “With a minimum of forethought and planning this pollution could easily have been avoided. Companies have a responsibility to dispose of their waste properly and if they don’t, and they pollute the water of our member clubs, Fish Legal will not hesitate to pursue them for damages.”

On using the legal services of Fish Legal Mr Otter added: “We were most impressed with how our solicitor handled the case and we will be sending a donation to support the continuing work of the organisation”.

Source: Angling Trust

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