One of the companies appealing an enforcement notice on the extraction of sand from Lough Neagh has been fined £15,000 by Department of the Environment for pollution in an unrelated incident.
Northstone Ltd, which is headquartered in Dunmurry, appeared before Limavady Magistrates Court on April 6.
It was convicted of making a polluting discharge and for making a discharge in contravention of DOE’s consent conditions.
On 24 November 2014, water quality inspectors, acting on behalf of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency responded to a complaint of sand washings in the River Roe in the Dungiven area.
The source of the polluting discharge was traced to the Northstone site at Murnies Sandpit Crebarkey, Dungiven.
A sample taken on 9 December 2014 confirmed that the discharge contained polluting matter which would have been potentially harmful to aquatic life in a receiving waterway.
The Department’s consent to discharge states that the suspended solids content of the effluent should not exceed 50 milligrammes per litre.
The effluent failed to comply with this requirement and was, therefore, unsuitable for discharge.
The analysis shows that the sample had a suspended solids level of 9,800 milligrammes per litre; this level of suspended solids over a sustained period of time would have a serious impact on the fish life in the waterway.
Harmful effects include clogging fish gills leading to stress, smothering and death, the destruction of fish spawning sites leading to a reduction in fish population and the destruction of habitats for invertebrates which are an important food source for fish.
Suspended solids also blanket aquatic plants leading to reduced growth rates and reduction in dissolved oxygen levels in the water.