Donald Trump’s golf resort in Aberdeenshire has been condemned as “poor” for sewage pollution by the Scottish Government’s green watchdog.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) has also named and shamed McVities, Tarmac, BP, ExxonMobil, two highland airports, a wood plant, a racecourse, a pet food factory, a castle and a country club for repeatedly breaching pollution rules.

Campaigners have criticised businesses for their environmental failings, and demanded a crackdown. But companies have defended their records, and stressed that problems are being addressed.

Sepa has posted online its pollution compliance assessments of more than 5,000 industrial sites for 2017. It rated 141 sites as “at risk”, 272 as “poor” and 40 as “very poor”.

Sepa has made clear that environmental compliance is “non-negotiable” and that companies must obey the law. “We will not tolerate consistent non-compliance,” Sepa’s chief executive, Terry A’Hearn, told The Ferret.

“Our annual compliance report card enables us to systematically identify the compliance issues that need to be tackled. Local communities will rightly hold us to account if future years do not show an improvement.”

One of those rated as poor for 2017 was Trump’s controversial golf resort at Menie on the northeast coast because of problems with its sewage works. “The data supplied indicated the works is not performing to the required standard,” said Sepa.

According to A’Hearn, monitoring information needed to assess the plant’s “ongoing suitability” had not been supplied when requested. “Sepa is currently in discussions with Trump International Golf Links Scotland regarding the continuing operation of this private sewage treatment works,” he said.

Friends of the Earth Scotland said it was “particularly galling” that the US president couldn’t properly manage sewage at his golf course. “You would almost think that Donald Trump doesn’t take the environment seriously,” said the environmental group’s director, Dr Richard Dixon.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust attacked Trump for having “the audacity” to pollute the local environment. “Sepa must come down hard on Trump and the other poor polluters identified in their report to minimise future damage to both wildlife and human health,” said the trust’s chief executive, Jonny Hughes.

Aberdeenshire councillor and veteran Trump critic, Martin Ford, said: “This is just the latest example of disregard for or non-compliance with regulations designed to protect the public and the environment.”

The Trump organisation did not respond to requests to comment.

Scotland’s dirty dozen polluters

SitePollution compliance in 2017Previous years
Trump golf resort, Aberdeenshirepoorat risk 2014
McVities biscuit factory, Glasgowpoorpoor 2013, 2014, 2015
Tarmac cement works, East Lothianpoorpoor 2014
BP Kinneil terminal, Grangemouthvery poorpoor 2014, 2015, 2016
ExxonMobil ethylene plant, Fifepoorgood or excellent
Inverness airportvery poorvery poor 2014, 2015, 2016
Wick airportpoor at two sitespoor 2015, 2016
Norbord wood plant, Stirlingshirepoorpoor 2010, 2012, 2014; very poor 2013
Perth racecoursepoorpoor 2016; at risk 2015
Dundas pet food factory, Dumfriespoorpoor 2011, 2012, 2014; very poor 2015, 2016
Lomond Castle, Argyllpoorpoor 2013, 2015
Dalmahoy country club, Edinburghpoorpoor 2015, 2016
source: Scottish Environment Protection Agency

The McVities biscuit factory in Glasgow was rated as poor for 2017 because it failed to comply with water discharge standards, Sepa said. The factory was also categorised as poor in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

McVities pointed out that the factory had been rated as excellent in 2016. “We are currently working together with Sepa on an improvement plan,” said a company spokesperson.

Tarmac’s cement works near Dunbar in East Lothian was classified as poor because of repeated air pollution breaches. One incident in September and October 2017 prompted 14 complaints about dust, and led to Sepa issuing the company a warning letter.

Tarmac said it was “disappointed” by its poor rating. “We take our environmental performance and relationship with the local community extremely seriously,” said a company spokesperson.

“We continue to work hard to meet new, more stringent European emission limits and fully respect the role of the regulator…We are installing state of the art technology which will enable us to meet the environmental and operational standards.”

Sepa damned the oil giant BP as very poor because of “poor control of flaring noise” at the Kinneil terminal near Grangemouth in 2017. The terminal was also rated as poor for the previous three years.

BP blamed the failures on “some compliance issues that did not lead to any significant environmental impact and which were addressed”. In October 2017 BP sold the terminal to the Grangemouth petrochemical firm, Ineos, which is now being threatened with prosecution by Sepa for flaring.

Ineos facing prosecution over gas flaring breach at Grangemouth

ExxonMobil’s Fife Ethylene Plant at Mossmorran was rated as poor because of flaring incidents that disturbed local residents. The company has since “made significant improvements to maintenance systems,” Sepa said.

ExxonMobil was “disappointed” by the rating, but was committed to regaining the very good or excellent ratings it had in previous years. “We work diligently to ensure the plant runs efficiently, and continue to invest heavily in best available technology,” said a company spokesperson.

Airports in Inverness and Wick run by Highlands and Islands Airports (HIAL) have had serious difficulties with effluent disposal. Sepa has rated Inverness airport as very poor for the last four years, and two sites at Wick airport as poor for the last three years because of “gross breaches”.

HIAL pointed out that it had invested £5 million at Inverness and £500,000 at Wick to resolve “complex legacy drainage issues”. At Inverness “considerable improvements” had been made to the effluent treatment system which were due to be complete by 2020, and further work was planned at Wick.

“In addition, we have reviewed our runway de-icing processes and changed to a more environmentally friendly runway de-icing fluid, which will be used this winter,” said a HIAL spokesperson.

Scotland trades on its clean image and any company that can’t respect that doesn't deserve to operate here. Dr Richard Dixon, Friends of the Earth Scotland

The wood panel plant run by Norbord at Cowie in Stirlingshire was rated as poor in 2017 because of “emission failures for formaldehyde and particular matter”. It was previously categorised as poor in 2010, 2012 and 2014, and as very poor in 2013.

Norbord accepted that there had been an “issue” at the end of 2017 with the build-up of material in particleboard emission control equipment. This had been detected, reported and cleaned up by the company, according to director, Steve Roebuck.

“Norbord takes its environmental responsibility very seriously and we continually endeavour to achieve excellence in this area,” he said.

Sepa rated Perth Racecourse at Scone Palace as poor in 2017 and 2016 for breaching its water extraction licences. The course is irrigated to help ensure the ground is not too firm, which can cause “jarring” for horses.

Racecourse chief executive, Hazel Peplinski said the water extraction licence was under review “to ensure it is fit for modern purposes”. She added: “We’re fully committed to working with Sepa to find a solution which allows us to consistently remain within licensed limits.”

Another site assessed as poor was the Dundas pet food factory in Dumfries. According to Sepa, it had “repeated breaches of discharge to air limits” in 2017 and had been poor or very poor in five of the previous six years.

“The breaches were discovered and dealt with quickly as a result of a continuous environmental monitoring system having been recently installed,” Sepa said. Dundas did not respond to requests to comment.

Two other sites rated as poor in 2017 and earlier years for sewage pollution were Lomond Castle on the shore of Loch Lomond and Dalmahoy hotel and country club near Edinburgh. Sepa said both were making improvements, but neither commented.

Mapped: the hundreds of firms condemned for ‘poor’ pollution performance

Mark Ruskell MSP, environment spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, said it was “not acceptable” to see environmental performances of multinationals deemed as poor. “It’s absolutely essential that businesses and organisations live up to their obligations to protect our natural environment,” he added.

“The conditions set down in environmental licenses are important and protect both staff on site as well as communities nearby. It’s simply not good enough for any business to fail to live up to its obligations in this regard.”

Dixon from Friends of the Earth Scotland argued that any persistently polluting company should receive “special attention to get their processes under control or be shut down”. He said: “Scotland trades on its clean image and any company that can’t respect that doesn’t deserve to operate here.”

Sepa has previously highlighted the poor and worsening compliance records of the fish farming industry and landfill sites. It has also pointed out that compliance assessments of 259 sites in 2017 were kept secret “for national security reasons”.

The whisky industry has been praised as “admirable” by Sepa for achieving 90 per cent compliance for four years in a row. But seven distilleries were still rated as poor in 2017 for pollution breaches, water extraction and reporting failures.

Sepa said most of them were expected to improve their compliance in 2018. The Scotch Whisky Association said it was “encouraging” that 139 assessment for 102 distilleries were excellent in 2017 but accepted there was “always more to do”.

This was story was published in tandem with the Sunday National. Photo thanks to Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0