Donegal County Ccouncil was fined €5,500, including costs, and rebuked by a judge today(Mon) for gross negligence in the protection of a river and its fish stocks.
Judge Kevin Kilrane heard how Donegal County Council left two valves open after repairs to water treatment works.
As a result sludge which should have gone into the Donegal town sewer system was discharged instead into a tributary of the River Eske at the adjoining townlands of Drumlaght and Drumlonagher.
Inland Fisheries environmental officer Brendan Maguire told Donegal District Court he investigated a disabled angling section on the Eske River and saw a discharge with two different colours of sludge.
He saw two dead fish in what was a hugely important fishery stocking salmon, sea trout and brown trout.
He said if the council hadn’t taken subsequent corrective action there would have been an ongoing problem but it was kept localised.
Defence solicitor Denis O’Mahony said a council employee had turned the valves the wrong way after the repairs and left them open instead of closing them. He thought he had turned them off.
He added: “It was human error.”
Judge Kilrane said the council had a joint responsibility with the Inland Fisheries for the protection and control of the environment but in this instance the council was guilty of “gross negligence.”
The judge added: “The taxpayer has invested a very considerable sum of money to promote fish stocks in that area.”
He said the council employee wasn’t properly trained .
The judge noted that the council had four previous convictions for similar offences in other locations in 2010.
He fined the council, which admitted the offence last August 31, €2,000 and ordered it to pay €3,501 costs.