Businessman John Simpson (33) from Semicock Road, Ballymoney, pleaded guilty to making false statements to obtain discharge consents and was fined a total of £2,000 plus £15 Offender Levy, in addition to a six months prison sentence suspended for two years at Coleraine Magistrates’ Court on Friday.
On 10 August 2016, a Water Quality Inspector acting on behalf of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency was processing an application for consent to discharge sewage effluent from a single dwelling.
While inspecting the percolation test results the inspector noted that one of the tests had a percolation value of 107.2; the threshold is 100.
The inspector recalled another consent had been processed for a different address where the percolation test results were also 107.2. The applications had been submitted by John Simpson.
A search was carried out on a number of applications submitted. The documentation was examined and it was found that the percolation test results were identical in every case.
The Environment Agency say these fraudulent results would have significantly increased the risk of pollution or a public health nuisance from each of these properties.
The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) operates a licensing system under the Water (Northern Ireland) Order 1999 for domestic properties which are not connected to the public sewer network.
The purpose of this is to ensure that the domestic effluent from every such property is treated to a high standard and disposed of in such a way that it will not cause a public health or environmental problem. The Water Order licenses are generally referred to as “consents”.
In the event that incorrect percolation figures are provided for a site, there is a high risk of a domestic effluent treatment system which is unsuitable for the local ground conditions being consented and installed on that site.
Given that domestic effluent treatment systems will normally remain unaltered for many years any pollution or public health problems which do arise are likely to be long-term and chronic, said the NIEA.
John Simpson of Simpson Design (NI) Ltd was convicted and charged under Article 29(b) of the Water (Northern Ireland) Order 1999 for the offence of knowingly or recklessly making a statement that was false or misleading in a material particular, for the purpose of obtaining a discharge consent and fined a total of £2,000 (four separate occasions and fined £500) and given 2 separate 3 months prison sentences suspended for two years.
Anyone wishing to report a pollution incident can call the 24 hour Water Pollution Hotline on 0800 80 70 60.