A north-east oil service firm was fined £14,000 yesterday after an explosion sent five tonnes of cement powder into the atmosphere.
Cebo UK, located at Peterhead’s Asco south base near the harbour, pleaded guilty to two failures to comply with its pollution prevention and control (PPC) permit when the case called at Peterhead Sheriff Court.
The firm, which stores bulk oilwell cement, admitted it had allowed the arm of a silo lid to become “severely corroded” and had failed to provide access to the lid.
This prevented it from being “inspected, maintained and repaired”.
As a result of this, the silo lid failed and was “propelled into the air” and a “substantial quantity of cement powder” sent into the atmosphere while also injuring an employee, Norman Willox.
The cement came to rest on roads, nearby buildings, vessels, vehicles and people in the area at the time.
Scottish Environment Protection Agency said last night the scale of the incident, on May 28, 2008, could not be understated.
Investigating officer Martyn Howie said: “This incident was both serious and avoidable, serious in that a large amount of cement powder was forcibly ejected into the atmosphere causing widespread pollution and avoidable through the correct and timeous maintenance of the silo by Cebo.
“It should be remembered that although in common use, cement is an aggressive powder which can cause harm to both the environment and human health and damage to property.
“The scale of this incident cannot be understated.
“Not only were a number of people working on and around the south base exposed to cement dust, but a significant number of complaints were received from local residents and businesses regarding cement deposits on property, gardens and vehicles indicating wider exposure to the dust.
“This incident should serve as a reminder to operators of Sepa-licensed sites that regular maintenance is vital and that the operation of site s to best available techniques is a requirement not an option.”
Sepa’s director of environmental protection Colin Bayes added: “We want to help people avoid pollution and advice on how to do that is easily available from our staff, offices and www.sepa.org.uk”
Sheriff Edward Savage, sitting at Peterhead Sheriff Court, fined the firm £14,000 reduced from £20,000.
When contacted by the Press and Journal last night, Cebo declined to comment on the sheriff’s ruling.