One of Ireland’s largest dairy co-operatives pleaded guilty at Letterkenny District Court to leaking waste liquid into the River Finn after a phone alarm system failed to operate due to an unpaid phone bill.
Aurivo Co-0perative Society Ltd, with an address at Ballina Road, Tubbercurry, Sligo had four charges brought by the Foyle, Carlingford and Irish Lights Commission relating to a spillage of a mix of sludge and water from their Killygordon plant into a tributary of the River Finn, known as the “Creamery Burn” in October 9.
The court heard from Fisheries officers that they attended the area to inspect reports a substance had entered the water course, which is a nursery stream for salmon and trout, and discoloured the water.
The substance was later identified as a milk solids and waste water treated at the plant. There was no fish killed as a result of the leak.
Alberry Key, manger of the site, outlined that once the problem was observed a worker at the plant notified the authorities immediately.
He said the leaked waste came from the last stage of a four stage treatment facility and a problem arose that the rate of input of material to the tank did not allow the correct rate of sedimentation occur, with the result a mix of “sludge and clean water” was poured into the river. They are licenced to release a certain amount of clean water into the stream.
He said they monitor the system seven days per week, even though they only produce milk over six days.
They use remote sensors linked via a SIM card to notify two mobile phones in the event of a problem.
He said when the firm charged hands between Donegal Creameries and Connacht Gold, who are now Aurivo, the bills had not been paid in the “confused period” of the hand over.
Barrister Charlotte Simpson said her client takes such matter very seriously.
Judge Alan Mitchell said it was a case of it being “the little things that trip you up” given it was a mutli-million take over yet “something as small as a telephone bill” had not been paid.
He ordered the firm to pay €2,000 to the prosecutor towards habitat management in the stream affected and ordered costs of €1,500.