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Revealed: Scotland's worst polluters

A record number of Scottish industrial sites have been officially condemned for their "poor" or "very poor" performances in failing to control pollution.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) has named and shamed 267 waste dumps, recycling plants, fish farms, sewage works and other facilities for breaching rules governing pollution. Contamination has leaked, spilled and belched into the environment at unauthorised levels at them all, sometimes threatening public health and wildlife.

Those polluters outed by Sepa include public water company Scottish Water, Glasgow City Council, food producer Baxters, and big waste firms Shanks and Sita. Five whisky distilleries have also been criticised, as have two crematoria in Glasgow.

Many polluting plants are repeat offenders labelled as poor performers for years.

One of the worst offenders, the Dargavel waste incinerator in Dumfries, had its operating licence revoked by Sepa this month after it failed to clean up an 800-tonne mess left by a major fire.

The new compliance assessments from Sepa have prompted environmentalists to demand tougher action against polluters, including prosecutions. Industry bodies, however, stress they are working hard to overcome any problems.

Sepa rated 47 industrial sites "very poor" and 220 "poor" for 2012. In 2011, 46 sites were very poor and 170 were poor.

Sepa emphasised that the proportion of the 3839 industrial sites it assessed as excellent, good or "broadly compliant" in 2012 was slightly better than 2011.

"Compliance with the licences we issue is of paramount importance to ensure that Scotland's environment and human health are safeguarded," said Sepa's executive director, Calum MacDonald.

Environmentalists, however, point out the record of large industrial plants and waste sites is getting worse. Green MSP Alison Johnstone criticised ministers for cutting £2 million from Sepa's funding, and said: "Communities should not have to put up with pollution, and it's time we got tough with big operators who repeatedly fail."

Mary Church, head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland, described as "very disappointing" the failure of big-name bodies to fulfil their environmental responsibilities. "Companies should not expect to get away with poor performance," she said.

"It is particularly obvious that there are plenty of cowboy operators in the waste industry and Sepa needs to crack down hard on the ones who just aren't listening."

By far the biggest pollution problems were found in the waste industry, with over 100 processing, recycling and landfill sites named as polluters. They included Glasgow City Council's Cathkin landfill site in East Kilbride, under fire from Sepa for "repeated breaches", with gas leaks and smells.

A council spokesman accepted that the site had had "issues with gas management". But he added: "Significant remedial works took place through the year to improve that situation."

Sepa criticised a Shanks waste disposal site at Leswalt in Stranraer for breaches of pollution rules, and the Binn landfill in Perth operated by Sita for offensive odours and high levels of leachates, solutions of pollutants in water.

The waste industry claims it is "extremely rare" for companies to fall into Sepa's poor category.

"Our members are not complacent," said Matthew Farrow, speaking for the Scottish Environmental Services Association.

"They aim to exceed the minimum requirements of the law and work closely with Sepa to ensure environmental performance is constantly improved."

Contextual targeting label: 
Environment

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