Trump’s Turnberry resort condemned for environmental breaches

One of Donald Trump’s prized golf resorts in Scotland has been officially damned as “poor” for breaking environmental rules. 

The US president’s Turnberry resort in Ayrshire was condemned by the Scottish Government’s green watchdog, along with Gordonstoun private school and the five-star Gleneagles Hotel.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) has also censured a Dundee waste incinerator, a Dunbar cement works, a Blair Atholl country fashion store, a safari park and a castle, for pollution.

Thirty four public sewage works, four hydro-electric schemes, four airports and three whisky distilleries have also been rated as “poor” – as have an Ineos terminal at Grangemouth and ExxonMobil’s chemical plant at Mossmorran in Fife.

Campaigners say the catalogue of breaches is “disgraceful” and have demanded tough punishments. Polluters accept there have been problems but say they have made improvements.

Trump and big name polluters damned as ‘poor’ by government watchdog

Sepa has released its latest “compliance assessments” for 5,123 sites across Scotland in 2018. Altogether, 51 sites were rated as “very poor”, 282 as “poor” and 156 as “at risk” – 11 per cent more than in 2016.

One of those rated as poor was Trump Turnberry, the championship golf course and hotel on the Ayrshire coast, bought and renamed by the US president in 2014. According to Sepa, limits for taking water to irrigate the course were breached by more than 20 per cent on 26 days in 2018.

“The dry weather conditions during 2018 highlighted the lack of resilience in the abstraction regime and irrigation systems at Trump Turnberry golf course,” a Sepa spokesperson told The Ferret.

“Sepa officers held discussions with representatives of Trump Turnberry to explore options to address the poor performance. This led to the installation of two new boreholes and additional storage tanks during 2019 to build in more resilience.”

The Ferret reported in 2018 that Trump’s other golf course in Scotland – at Menie on the Aberdeenshire coast – was assessed as poor by Sepa because of sewage pollution in 2017.

Gordonstoun boarding school in Moray, which charges £13,750 a term for 12 and 13 year-olds, was attended by the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. Sepa said it was rated as poor because its sewage treatment plant repeatedly exceeded limits for ammonia pollution in 2018.

Gordonstoun pointed out that it wasn’t connected to the main drainage system, and that its private system had been rated as “excellent” in four of the last five years. “The factors which led to an issue in 2018 have been fully addressed as acknowledged in Sepa’s report,” said a spokesperson for the school.

Gleneagles hotel, spa and golf course in Perthshire is offering its luxury Spirit Suite for up to £11,465 for seven nights in summer 2020. Sepa classified the resort as poor because it breached water abstraction limits for 27 days in 2018.

Gleneagles accepted that the amount of water it took from its grounds “exceeded our allowance” for periods. But it pointed out the summer was dry and that the hotel ended the year well within its annual allowance.

The hotel was committed to ensuring services are “sourced, managed and delivered responsibly and sustainably,” said a spokesperson, adding it was working to “protect the precious assets which surround the hotel.”

The ageing Baldovie waste incinerator in Dundee was rated as poor due to emissions of the toxic metal, antimony, and a “gross breach” of polluting gases in 2018. According to Sepa, the plant’s new German operator, MVV Energie, is building a replacement plant in 2020.

MVV highlighted that Sepa had said it was making “good progress” in managing the ageing plant. “Having started from a low level this work has continued in 2019 and carries on today, to ensure that the facility meets the standards required,” the company said.

The cement works run by the British company, Tarmac, near Dunbar was categorised as poor after a roof collapse in April 2018 caused dust emissions leading to 40 complaints from local residents. “Tarmac responded well to the incident,” said Sepa, “although there are still improvements that could be made.”

Tarmac stressed that it took its environmental performance very seriously. “There was no health risk to the public arising from the incident and the company engaged extensively with its neighbours in the immediate vicinity to provide reassurance,” said the Dunbar plant manager, Oliver Curtin.

“We have fully co-operated with Sepa to put in place all the necessary mitigation measures.”

The House of Bruar, an upmarket department store specialising in tweed and outdoor clothing in Blair Atholl, suffered equipment failures in its private sewage system in 2018. These resulted in ammonia pollution.

Richard Christie, the store’s deputy retail manager described Sepa’s assessment as “incredibly disappointing” but insisted it had been dealt with. “The plant has since operated very satisfactorily,” he said.

Blair Drummond Safari and Adventure Park in Stirling, which is home to 350 animals, also had problems with sewage. In the busy and dry summer of 2018 the site had two breaches of ammonia limits, and is now “desludging” its tank more often.

Lomond Castle, upmarket self-catering holiday accommodation in West Dunbartonshire, was labelled poor. “The site has failed to meet the requirements of the licence discharge conditions,” Sepa said.

Friends of the Earth Scotland attacked well-off bodies for failing to take their responsibilities to control pollution seriously. “This catalogue of big companies and rich institutions that can’t be bothered to meet their environmental obligations is disgraceful,” said the group’s director, Dr Richard Dixon.

“It is particularly disappointing – but not surprising – that Trump Turnberry cares as little about the environment as Trump himself. These companies and institutions clearly have the money to invest in getting things right.”

He added: “The fact that they are rated poor can only be because that they don’t consider the environment to be important, and they should be punished as strongly as possible for this disregard.”

Sites rated as poor for 2018 by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency

Trump Turnberry, Ayrshirebreaching water abstraction limits
Gordonstoun School, Moraysewage pollution
Gleneagles Hotel, Perthshirebreaching water abstraction limits
Baldovie waste incinerator, Dundeeair pollution
Tarmac cement works, East Lothianair pollution
House of Bruar, Perthshiresewage pollution
Lomond Castle, West Dunbartonshiredischarge breaches
Blair Drummond Safari and Adventure Park, Stirlingsewage pollution
Ineos Kinneil Terminal, Grangemouthflaring
ExxonMobil chemical plant, Fifeflaring
34 public sewage worksoverflows and leaks
4 hydro-electric schemesdisrupting river flow
4 airportspollution from de-icing
3 whisky distilleriesspillage and breaches
Scottish Environment Protection Agency

As many as 32 public sewage works were poor because of overflows, leaks and other incidents. A further two were rated as “very poor” including the Perth sewerage network, which overflowed in June 2018 after heavy rain – resulting in “a large brown slick and sewage solids” being visible in the River Tay.

According to Scottish Water, the screens designed to filter out solids during flooding were overwhelmed by an intense storm. “We continue to work with Sepa on improving environmental performance and over the period 2015-21 we are investing £500 million,” said the government company’s spokesperson, Andrew Walker.

Three hydro-electric plants across the country were classed as poor in 2018, and one as very poor. The plants caused unlicensed disruptions to river flows which could harm fish, said Sepa.

The industry body, Scottish Renewables, emphasised that hydro schemes were subject to “intense scrutiny” by regulators. “While any breach of environmental regulations surrounding renewable energy projects is taken seriously by industry, it is positive to see that these issues have been addressed quickly,” said policy manager, Cara Dalziel.

Three whisky distilleries were marked poor for an oil spill, taking too much water and breaching cooling water temperature limits. The Scotch Whisky Association said it took its responsibility to help protect the environment “extremely seriously”, and pointed out that 160 out of 167 distilleries were rated as good, or excellent, in 2018.

Kinneil oil and gas terminal run by Ineos on the Firth of Forth at Grangemouth was assessed as very poor because of repeated breaches of the rules governing flaring. The multinational company told the BBC that it was investing in the site and was committed to “responsible environmental performance”.

ExxonMobil was also classed as poor because flaring from its petrochemical plant at Mossmorran in Fife caused “substantial impairment of amenity”. The company is appealing against the rating, and asking Sepa for evidence.

Sepa rated Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness and Wick airports poor because of pollution including that caused by aircraft de-icing. The airports are trying to limit the amount of de-icer that is discharged to the environment.

Sepa’s chief executive, Terry A’Hearn, stressed that environmental compliance is non-negotiable. “Every Scottish business will comply with the law, and we’ll work to ensure as many as possible will go even further,” he said.

Sepa had set up a new enforcement unit to fast track efforts to tackle serious breaches. “We’ve already refocused resource on tackling poor performance at complex industrial sites and will this year start to see the first in a series of significant investments by operators that aim to improve environmental outcomes for communities,” he added.

Trump TurnberryBlair Drummond Safari and Adventure Park and Lomond Castle have not responded to requests to comment.

Cover photo of Trump Turnberry thanks to iStock/Lou Armor. Photo of Gleneagles Hotel thanks to iStock/MBMdesigns. This story was updated at 10.50 on 21 February 2020 to include a comment from Tarmac.

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