£150k gift but no fine for firm after oil spill in river

Carmarthen Journal - - News - ROB HARRIES 07890 546505 [email protected]­di­awales.co.uk

THE company re­spon­si­ble for an oil spill which saw thou­sands of litres of oil pour into a Welsh stream has avoided a fine – but has made a dona­tion to a river charity.

In Oc­to­ber 2016 rou­tine main­te­nance was be­ing car­ried out along­side the A40 out­side Car­marthen by Main­line Pipe­lines Lim­ited, a sub­sidiary of oil gi­ant Valero.

Dam­age was done to a pipe near Nan­ty­caws, be­tween Car­marthen and Cross Hands, and about 140,000 litres leaked into the wa­ter and even­tu­ally reached a stream called Nant Pibwr. A sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of fish died as a re­sult of the spill.

A huge clean-up op­er­a­tion en­sued at a re­ported cost of more than £1 mil­lion, and Main­line Pipe­lines Lim­ited ad­mit­ted li­a­bil­ity un­der the Salmon and Fresh­wa­ter Fish­eries Act Reg­u­la­tions 1975 after an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the cause of the spill was car­ried out by Nat­u­ral Re­sources Wales (NRW).

The company re­sponsi- ble for the spill has avoided a fine and pros­e­cu­tion, and has in­stead donated £150,000 to Afonydd Cymru, the Welsh body that rep­re­sents six river trusts across Wales.

Fol­low­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion car­ried out by NRW, Main­line Pipe­lines Lim­ited of­fered what’s known as an en­force­ment un­der­tak­ing for the of­fences com­mit­ted.

Ac­cord­ing to the UK Govern­ment, the “primary pur­pose of the en­force­ment un­der­tak­ing is to al­low the of­fender to re­store and re­me­di­ate any en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age they have caused”.

Ef­fec­tively this means a dona­tion is paid to a char- itable body which is equiv­a­lent to the size of a po­ten­tial fine.

This money will now go to­wards im­prov­ing parts of the River Tywi which were af­fected by the spill.

NRW says this out­come ben­e­fits the com­mu­nity and it was “in the pub­lic in­ter­est” not to take the mat­ter to court.

“Our role is to en­sure busi­nesses can op­er­ate with­out harm­ing peo­ple and the en­vi­ron­ment, this may in­volve pros­e­cu­tion but in cer­tain cases it can be in the pub­lic in­ter­est to look at op­tions other than a court case,” said Huwel Man­ley, op­er­a­tions man­ager for NRW. Ac­tions such as en­force­ment un­der­tak­ings, where com- pa­nies that have com­mit­ted of­fences make a fi­nan­cial con­tri­bu­tion to en­vi­ron­men­tal groups, not only ben­e­fit the com­mu­nity but also al­low NRW to use its re­sources to pur­sue other of­fend­ers.

“This ap­proach is an ex­am­ple of NRW ful­fill­ing its key role for the greater good of the com­mu­nity.”

Dr Stephen MarshSmith, of Afonydd Cymru, said: “We are de­lighted that the out­come of this case is a dona­tion.

“An en­force­ment un­der­tak­ing is a much more pos­i­tive out­come than a court case and we con­grat­u­late Main­line Pipe­lines and Nat­u­ral Re­sources Wales in reach­ing this agree­ment.”

Picture: Mike Wal­ters

The oil spill near Nan­ty­caws.

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