Caterpillar fined for diesel spill into Irish Sea

Date published: 04 October 2017

Caterpillar (NI) was today convicted of discharging more than 40,000 litres of diesel into the Irish Sea at Larne.

The company pleaded guilty at Antrim Crown Court and was fined £7,500.

On Saturday 11 June 2016, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) received a report from a member of the public that a significant fuel spill had occurred in the vicinity of Larne Harbour.

NIEA immediately sent a Water Quality Inspector to the area in order to carry out an investigation. As NIEA’s investigation was ongoing, staff from Caterpillar (NI) Ltd reported, via the NIEA Water Pollution Hotline, that a diesel spill had occurred overnight at their factory on the Old Glenarm Road, Larne.

Caterpillar (NI) Ltd staff first discovered the diesel spillage at 7am on 11 June but initially believed that the spill had been contained within the site. The company reported the incident to NIEA once they became aware that an unknown quantity of diesel had discharged to the Irish Sea.

The spillage had occurred sometime in the late afternoon of Friday 10 June when a system failure caused diesel to overflow from storage tanks to the factory floor, which then entered into the factory’s storm drainage system before discharging to the Irish Sea.

NIEA’s investigation concluded that more than 40,000 litres of diesel had been discharged to the Irish Sea, impacting a significant area beyond the point of discharge at Larne, with visible impact noted some three kilometres eastward to Brown’s Bay and nine kilometres north to Southtown.

Immediately following the incident, Caterpillar (NI) Ltd also conducted their own internal investigation into the reasons for the failure of their fuel storage and delivery systems.

The Judge heard that company had put in place a number of additional ‘fail safes’ in respect of the operation of their fuel systems in order to minimise the risk of a similar incident occurring in the future. 

A sample taken at the time of the incident confirmed that the discharge was diesel.

Anyone wishing to report a pollution incident can call the 24 hour Water Pollution Hotline on: 0800 80 70 60.

Notes to editors: 

  1. Caterpillar (NI) Ltd was charged under Article 7(1)(a) of the Water (Northern Ireland) Order 1999 with the offence of making a polluting discharge to a waterway.
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