The consortium building the new Aberdeen bypass has been issued with a £280,000 penalty for a series of silt pollution incidents on the rivers Don and Dee.
Aberdeen Roads Limited, a joint venture including Balfour Beatty, Morrison Construction and Carillion, was deemed responsible for the incidents on the important salmon rivers along with some tributaries.
The case if the first major enforcement of new powers by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and will see over £280,000 committed to community projects and environmental improvements across Aberdeenshire.
Following extensive investigations and enforcement action by SEPA between 2015 and 2017, the Construction Joint Venture (CJV) building the multi-million pound Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR) have offered the funding in an Offer of Enforcement Undertaking, after causing a series of silt pollution incidents which affected the Aberdeenshire rivers.
The Enforcement Undertaking admits full liability by the AWPR B-T Construction Joint Venture (CJV) for the pollution and will result in the funding being divided between eight community initiatives as a penalty for the disruption and environmental impact.
The offer, which required the Construction Joint Venture to engage with local stakeholders, has been formally accepted by SEPA, thus securing one of the biggest financial outcomes for an environmental offence in Scotland. It is only the fourth of its kind to be accepted by SEPA.
Granted as a new enforcement power in June 2016, an Enforcement Undertaking represents a formal offer by an organisation or individual to make amends for an offence by improving the environment or communities affected, using their own resources.
The new enforcement power can be used to bring about effective and immediate solutions to environmental offences and requires the offender to work with SEPA to ensure ongoing compliance in future, as well as making appropriate restitution.
SEPA chief executive, Terry A’Hearn, said: “Every day SEPA works to protect and enhance Scotland’s environment and we will respond robustly to organisations who fail to comply with environmental controls. Every operator must comply.
“It’s right that the Construction Joint Venture should offer this significant enforcement undertaking in recognition of the environmental impact of their actions, which resulted in a series of silt pollution incidents impacting numerous tributaries to Aberdeenshire rivers, the Dee and the Don.
“We are delighted that CJV has become one of the first operators to use the new enforcement undertaking. The CJV has stepped forward, accepted responsibility and set out to put things right.
“An enforcement undertaking not only compels those who breach the law to make amends, it instils a more positive working relationship based on understanding the duty we all share in safeguarding our natural environment.”
Aberdeen Roads Limited is constructing the new 36-mile road which will provide a fast link between towns between the North, South and West of Aberdeen.
The project is being delivered by Transport Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Government and in partnership with Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council.
The silt pollution was caused by heavy rainfall which led to muddy water running off the construction site into waterways.
An enforcement notice was issued to contractors last year after concerns were raised at the time about the impact it could have on salmon and freshwater pearl mussels.
Transport Scotland said: “We take our environmental responsibilities very seriously and have been working closely with SEPA and the contractor, Aberdeen Roads Ltd (ARL), to ensure the watercourses on site are protected from construction activities.
“We welcome any measures that have been agreed between SEPA and ARL where they result in a positive impact on the environment.”
The biggest beneficiary of the undertaking is the Dee District Salmon Fishery Board, which will receive £112,500 for improvement projects relating to diffuse pollution, and £37,500 to fund an agricultural officer for two years to assist farm owners in reducing diffuse pollution in the River Don.
Richard Gledson, chairman, Dee District Salmon Fisheries Board, added: “Silt pollution from the construction of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route gave us great cause for concern, particularly as the River Dee is designated as a special habitat for both salmonid fish and fresh water pearl mussels, which rely on a delicate eco-system to feed and spawn.
“We welcome both the immediate response by SEPA, including the temporary restriction of construction activity, their investigation, and today’s enforcement undertaking. This will provide for environmental improvements that will go some way to offsetting the impact on local communities and the environment.”
In addition to the funding for community and environmental benefits, SEPA will also recover £47,958 as part of the offer. This lump sum will be made by the CJV as a contribution towards the time spent investigating the various pollution incidents which resulted from their construction works.