Antrim firm Northstone fined for polluting salmon river
One of Northern Ireland's biggest construction materials companies has been fined £15,000 for polluting a key salmon river.
Northstone (NI) Ltd, of Kingsway, Dunmurry, Co Antrim, was handed the punishment at Limavady Magistrates Court for polluting the River Roe, a protected Special Area of Conservation.
The company was fined for making a polluting discharge and for making a discharge in breach of Department of the Environment (DoE) conditions.
A DoE spokesman said: "On November 24, 2014, water quality inspectors, acting on behalf of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, responded to a complaint of sand washings in the River Roe in the Dungiven area.
"The source of the polluting discharge was traced to the Northstone site at Murnies Sandpit, Crebarkey, Dungiven.
"A sample taken on December 9, 2014 confirmed that the discharge contained polluting matter which would have been potentially harmful to aquatic life in a receiving waterway."
The DoE said the effluent should not have contained more than 50mg per litre in suspended solids, but analysis showed that the sample had 9,800mg per litre.
"This level of suspended solids over a sustained period of time would have a serious impact on the fish life in the waterway," the spokesman added.
"Harmful effects include the clogging of fish gills, leading to stress, smothering and death, the destruction of fish spawning sites, leading to a reduction in fish population, and the destruction of habitats for invertebrates, which are an important food source for fish.
"Suspended solids also blanket aquatic plants, leading to reduced growth rates and reduction in dissolved oxygen levels in the water."
Northstone Ltd was fined £7,500 for making a polluting discharge to the White Burn, a tributary of the Black Burn and River Roe. The company was fined another £7,500 for contravening the terms of a discharge consent issued by the DoE.
Northstone said that it very much regretted that the incident had occurred.
"A sustained period of exceptionally heavy rainfall led to abnormal conditions, resulting in the incident," a spokesman added.
"There was no detrimental effect to aquatic life. The measures that we have in place to prevent a similar incident occurring in the future are continually under review."
The River Roe and its tributaries have been listed as a Special Area of Conservation because they support scarce species including salmon and otters and the water crowfoot plant.