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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 December 2005, 13:18 GMT
Oil firm fined over Humber spill
Oil pipeline
The leak was caused by a fractured overland pipeline
An oil refinery has been fined 12,500 after a major spill polluted wildlife conservation areas on the Humber.

The Total Lindsey Oil Refinery pleaded guilty at Scunthorpe Magistrates' Court to allowing 60,000 litres of crude oil to leak into the estuary last December.

The leak from a fractured pipe affected watercourses over a two-mile area as oil poured into land drains and entered the estuary at South Killingholme.

The Environment Agency said prosecution sent a "clear message" to the industry.

As well as the fine, the company was ordered to pay 5,651 Environment Agency costs.

Serious incident

Jean-Pierre Poncin, general manager at Lindsey Oil Refinery, said: "We deeply regret that this incident occurred and are committed to implementing any lessons that can be learnt.

"We are particularly disappointed that the leak has occurred as the refinery has had a strong environmental record over the last 35 years."

Dominic Freestone, senior environment officer at the Environment Agency, said: "This was a serious incident involving a large volume of oil which affected a sensitive environment.

"Despite the company's comprehensive clean-up response, prosecution is necessary in this case to send out a clear message that we expect industry to recognise the risks of potential harm to the environment and take effective steps to prevent or minimise them."

He said the fine reflected the company's early guilty plea, its comprehensive clean-up, full co-operation with the Environment Agency investigation and the fact that there was no long-term impact on the environment.

Birds oiled

The polluted area covered a number of conservation areas including the Humber estuary and North Killingholme Haven Pits, both Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

Land drains were severely oiled between the site of the spill and South Killingholme Haven and flora and fauna in the drain system were likely to have been harmed. At least 10 birds were oiled in the incident.

Steven Watson, the refinery's operations manager, told investigating Environment Agency officers that in a routine weekly inspection the day before the incident the specific area of the leak had not been looked at because it was not on the inspection checklist.

The person carrying out the inspection was new and had not been trained properly, he added.

As a result of the leak, the company has pledged to spend more than 2.5m on an advanced technique that allows comprehensive mapping of pipeline defects. It also intends to install oil detection alarms.


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