The insurers of a construction company have agreed to pay £ 1,159 in damages to the The Threemile WaterConservation and Angling Association, following a pollution incident at Newtonabbey in County Antrim. InJanuary 2006, O’Hare & McGovern Construction Ltd allowed oil from a tank to escape into the Threemile River while working on a nearby school. This caused a substantial kill of aquatic invertebrates, which provide a crucial food source for the trout that inhabit the river.

The angling association, which leases the nearby fishing rights on the river, asked the Anglers’ Conservation Association (ACA) to bring the claim after seeing their catch returns drop significantly following the pollution. The fishing club had worked hard for some years to improve the river habitat, receiving grants from the Peace Initiative and the Department of Culture. In 2003, they won the prestigious Wild Trout Trust award for their environmental efforts, the first time the award has been given to an Irish river project.

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) investigated the incident at the time and sent a warning letter to the company, charging them just £ 29.92 for their costs of installing a boom to contain the oil. For a long period the NIEA would not confirm the identity of the Defendant until the ACA threatened to complain to the Information Commissioner. In May 2007, a year after the ACA’s initial request, the NIEA finally confirmed the polluter’s identity and provided the long awaited case-file.

Mark Lloyd, Executive Director of the ACA said: “We’re delighted to have secured this settlement for our member club, our third successful case in Northern Ireland, particularly as the NIEA failed to prosecute the polluter for the damage caused to the ecology of this special river. We hope that in future the authorities will take all pollutions seriously, whether or not fish are killed. The NIEA need to start using their powers to investigate properly and to prosecute where appropriate. They certainly shouldn’t be impeding our civil actions against polluters by denying access to environmental information.”

John Webster, chairman of the Threemile Water Conservation and Angling Association said: “We feel justice has been done through the ACA but remain disappointed with the Department of the Environment’s response.” He added: “I have been fishing for 60 years and would advise any angling group to join the ACA. It will fight for clean water and against pollution.”