Luxury leather company fined for dumping chemicals down sewer
A luxury leather tannery has been fined heavily for dumping dangerous chemicals into the public sewage system.
Clyde Leather Co must pay £ 10,000 after rejecting illegal levels of chromium in violation of pollution laws.
The company is Scotland’s only suede manufacturer and supplies high-end designers like Charlotte Elizabeth, whose clients include Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.
John McGovern, representing Clyde Leather Co, appeared before Paisley Sheriff Court and confirmed that the company pleaded guilty to violating the Sewerage Scotland Act by dumping commercial effluent containing excessive levels of chromium into sewers.
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The prosecution says the company was responsible for the pollution violation for eight months – between March 4 and November 25 last year.
The court heard that the family business, which has been based in Neilston since 1963, uses chrome in the manufacture and finishing of leather products.
The wastewater is then discharged into the sewage system, which is supposed to comply with environmental safety standards.
However, a tannery worker tasked with monitoring effluent discharges had been put on leave during the pandemic and his post was taken over by general manager Richard Harris.
Assistant Tax Attorney Joe Stewart told the court how Scottish Water visited the plant to conduct inspections.
And inspectors found bosses dumped excessive levels of toxic metal residues into public sewers.
In court on Thursday, Mr Stewart said: “Scottish Water regularly monitors effluent discharges to ensure compliance.
“The employee responsible for this had been put on leave and has now left the company.
“The company’s replacement has not made any significant improvement to its compliance limits.
“Forty-six samples were taken and only 11 were within authorized limits. “
The prosecutor added that failure to comply with pollution standards “will not cause any damage”.
But he added: “Whenever there is an excess, there is a risk of harm. “
Mr Stewart also said he was “not aware of any financial benefit from these failures”, but added that they could provide “a benefit to those companies that meet the standards”.
Defense officer Mr McGovern described the company as “Scotland’s only tannery specializing in high quality suede”.
He said the company manufactures leather products for the shoe and handbag trade, which is a “niche market”.
He added: “The company has been severely affected by the pandemic.
“Five of the 20 employees were made redundant. Customers went from 100 to just two.
“In this context, the person employed by the company to monitor rejection levels has been placed on leave.
“Responsibility for monitoring release levels has been assumed by Richard Harris, Managing Director.
“He agrees to have taken over the role and as a result the discharge levels haven’t received the attention they should have received.”
The lawyer said that Clyde Leather Co, “who has never worried the courts before”, “admitted his guilt at a relatively early stage”.
He added: “And he has taken steps to remedy the situation that brought him here today.”
Sheriff Tom McCartney said: “The release of chemicals in excess of limits has occurred several times over an eight-month period.
“A fine big enough is needed to get the message across to those who engage in it.”
He fined Clyde Leather Co £ 10,000, reduced by £ 15,000 for his early guilty plea.
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