Green energy firm fined £4k for polluting beauty spot
A renewable energy company set up by farmers has been fined £4,000 after it admitted polluting a river.
Greenan Generation Limited, which is based on the Carnmoney Road near Eglinton, Co Londonderry, pleaded guilty to discharging polluting matter into a tributary of the River Faughan on May 22 last year and to discharging effluent sewage on October 21 last year.
Five other related offences were withdrawn by a solicitor acting for the Public Prosecution Service.
The lawyer told District Judge Barney McElholm at Londonderry Magistrates' Court that in October 2014 water quality inspectors from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency examined the beauty spot.
The officers found a quantity of fungal matter and silage close to a drain leading from the company's plant. Following a meeting between the inspectors and directors of the company, a follow-up examination was carried out in May last year, during which silage effluent was again detected.
Last July, dye was poured into the drain leading from the plant, and it was later seen in the river, along with fresh fungus and silage effluent.
A pump in the plant was subsequently found not to be working as effectively as it should have been.
The solicitor said the pollution occurred in an area of special scientific interest, and that the effluent discharged into the river was both poisonous and noxious.
A solicitor for Greenan Generation Limited said the renewable energy project stemmed from a farming diversification plan, and that the company's directors were all local farmers.
He told the court a digester filled up last year at a time when the volume of grass in the pits on the site was high. The solicitor added the system was unable to work properly because the density of grass was so great.
He explained that remedial works carried out by the directors following the incidents had rectified the problem, which included a failure in the plant's pumping equipment.
The solicitor also indicated that a firm of independent consultants oversaw the remedial work, which cost £4,000, and was satisfied with the results.
"This was a significant investment to upgrade the design purpose building," he said.
"What happened were teething problems in an industry which should have a positive environmental impact."
The District Judge said that the Planning Service and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency should in future work more closely with one other in terms of the designs of these types of projects.
"A stitch in time would have saved nine," he added.
Before he fined the company £4,000, Mr McElholm said that the maximum fine was £20,000 and that there was a maximum prison sentence of three months.