Oil and whisky don’t mix

A Scottish drinks company was recently fined £9,000 after a spill from its distillery.
Whyte and MacKay pleaded guilty at Tain Sheriff Court after a spill from its Invergordon facility ended up in the Cromarty Firth. It admitted carrying on a controlled activity liable to cause pollution of the water environment following the discharge of a quantity of oil via surface water drainage.
The matter was investigated by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and reported to the Procurator Fiscal. The court heard that in August 2011 a SEPA officer carrying out an investigation at Saltburn Pier on an unrelated matter noticed a red, oily substance discharging to the Firth from surface water drainage culverts. There was a very strong odour that suggested it may be coming from the distillery.
Samples of the substance were taken and officers visited the distillery to investigate further. When the sample was shown to a representative from Whyte and MacKay he confirmed it was fusel oil and had originated from the distillery.
It was found that the bund containing the fusel oil storage tank was full of fusel oil and the tank containing it was leaking a steady flow from its door. The bund was also leaking. At the base of the bund the fusel oil was seen entering the gravel area surrounding the bund and, from there, drained into the surface water drains.
Action was taken at that time to pump out the remaining liquid from the bund and place drain covers over the surface water drains to stop further liquid entering the surface water drainage Once the remaining fusel oil had been recovered from the bund, the system was flushed out over a 36-hour period.
A follow-up inspection of the empty fusel oil storage tank and bund showed a crack around two metres long between the base of the bund and the bund wall, at the same point as the fusel oil was witnessed seeping out. Further, the retaining bolts on the storage tank door had come loose, loosening the seal.
An internal report from Whyte and Mackay Ltd concluded that 19,260 litres of the oil was lost to the Firth.
David Wilby, SEPA’s investigating officer, said: “Two issues contributed to this incident, the leak from the fusel oil tank and the crack in the bund. There are no level alarms or telemetry on this tank and the distillery is only able to check volume by visual inspections and by taking a manual reading off a gauge within the tank. An alarm on this tank would have notified the distillery of a spill and would likely have resulted in this spill being contained.
“In this case the discharge was made to the Cromarty Firth which resulted in high dilution of the effluent and the effect on the environment was minimal. However, the impact could have been much greater had it gone undetected or occurred at a different time of year. “