Chemical plant leak

Environmental protection officers are investigating a problem at a chemical plant which led to sewage being discharged into the River Forth.

The discharge of partially treated effluent, happened on Friday, January 14, at Grangemouth’s CalaChem site.

SEPA, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, which is monitoring the situation on a daily basis, believes wildlife has not been affected by the leak and CalaChem, formerly Kemfine, stated this week the amount of sewage released was within safe limits.

A SEPA spokesman said: “We were notified on January 14 by CalaChem that problems with the operation of their effluent treatment plant resulted in partially treated effluent having to be discharged to the Forth Estuary.

“Discharges like these are permitted by SEPA under the conditions of CalaChem’s Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) permit, that allows an emergency bypass of the treatment system in order to protect the biological stage of the treatment from damage.”

The emergency discharge was sampled by SEPA on Monday, January 17, and they are currently awaiting the results. Two SEPA regulatory officers were on site at CalaChem last week to investigate the cause of the incident and the measures being taken to rectify the situation.

According to SEPA, CalaChem has ceased accepting all waste from third parties and non-critical effluent streams and environment officers are satisfied the company is doing everything possible to return the plant to full treatment as soon as possible.

The SEPA spokesman added: “It is anticipated there will be a period of up to two weeks of partial effluent treatment, to allow the treatment plant biomass to be restored.

“We are constantly monitoring the situation and require the company to send in daily progress reports. We also asked the company to submit reports on the upgrades needed to the plant to prevent a recurrence of this situation.”

A CalaChem spokesman said: “SEPA have been informed and will be updated daily. CalaChem are working with their customers and have reduced the effluent loading. We take safety, health and environmental responsibilities very seriously and are treating this situation as our highest business priority.”

The CalaChem plant was purchased by German firm Aurelius AG late last year in a move which was welcomed by Falkirk Council officials as it safeguarded 200 jobs and began a new phase in the history of chemical manufacture in Grangemouth.

Kemfine was a leading producer in the agrochemical, pharmaceutical and speciality chemical sectors and one of the first things new bosses planned to do at the re-named business was increase the wastewater treatment plant’s capacity.