Alleged Pollution of the River Alyn, 1871

type: Beyond Scotland - Wales

Cheshire Observer, 27th January 1871
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Alleged Pollution of the River Alyn

Mold Petty Sessions, before J. Scott-Bankes, Major Roper & T.W. Eyton

Bush v. Plas y Mhowys Oil Company.

Mr. Bridgman, of Chester, appeared on behalf of the " Society for the Prevention of the Pollution of the River Dee and its Tributaries," in support of the following information : — Wm. Kempton Bush, of the city of Chester, said that on the 14th day of November, 1871, the defendant, of Plas y Mhowys Oil Works, in the county of Flint, did at or near such works in the said county, knowingly permit to flow into and down a rivulet, being a tributary of the river Alyn, in the said county, which is a water containing salmon, and also a tributary of the river Dee, which is also water containing salmon, certain liquid matter to such an extent as to cause the waters of the said rivulet, being also a tributary of the river Dee, contrary to the form of the statute in that case made and provided Mr. Spencer Walpole, one of H.M.'s Commissioners of Inspectors of Salmon Fisheries, went on the 14th November with Mr. Mostyn Owen up the Alyn to the Rosset, when the river tasted of tar. He did not think salmon would turn back from the river if in the state it was then. He would not say salmon would be killed, but it would be prejudical to them. The water was in a moderate state. He went to defendant's works and saw matter running into the river similar to what he had seen at the Rosset, both in taste and smell. He had some minnows and vace with him, and below Mr. Marston's works he took water out of the stream, and also at the defendant's. He put in a minnow in the water at 15 minutes past one below Mr. Marston's, and at 43 minutes the fish were on their sides, and minnows are not so easily killed as salmon and trout. At 2.10 he put a minnow in water at the defendant's, at 2.35 it was on its side, at 2.45 he put fresh water, and it was dead at 3.15. Above the works the water was perfectly pure. He saw a small drain with tarry substances floating in it coming from the defendant's works into the brook. He tasted the water at the junction of the river with the Alyn, and was satisfied no young salmon could live in it there.

Cross-examined: That he stated as a matter of opinion. He put minnows into water and they showed signs of uneasiness, but did not stay long enough to see whether they were killed. He went around the works to see the precautions the defendant had taken to prevent the pollution of the river, and he thought the noxious matter came from the stills and not from a heap of ashes. The defendant said he was preparing an evaporating furnace and settling pond for that purpose, and witness could not suggest any improvement, and defendant gave him every facility. As a matter of fact the minnow placed n the water at defendant's works died in a shorter time than those put in below Mr. Marston's works, which was below. He did not see the point of junction of the Nant rivulet with that which passed the works of defendant and Mr. Marston. He had no doubt that the noxious element in the water was tar; he thought it was the oil and not any chemicals used in refining.

Re-examined: The water above the junction with the Alyn was purer than that below the works. The water in the Nant brook was of a red ochreous nature which came from the collieries. By the Chairman : He thought defendant might have done more to prevent the flow of tar into the river. Capt. Mostyn Owen, Secretary of the River Dee Conservators, corroborated the statement of Mr. Walpole. He added that personally he had never taken fish in the Alyn.

Cross-examined— lt was possible to prove whether fish would live at the junction of the Nant with the Alyn ; but he had never tried it. He was sure young fish would not stay there, and if a salmon stopped long enough at the Rossett it would kill it. He knew that a large volume of water joined the stream passing defendant's, a little below Mr. Marston's ; but he made no experiments of the water below the junction. Mr Hatton confirmed the statements made by Messrs. Walpole and Owen.

Cross-examined — He attended a meeting in Chester in the early part of October last, when a special complaint was made of the River Alyn to the effect that it was as bad if not worse than ever. No one from the society had suggested to defendant what should be done to rectify the matter. John Hughes, water bailiff, had known the river Alyn for ten years; it used to be a good salmon and trout river, but neither would go into it now only after a freshet. He then confirmed the statement of the other witnesses. He took the water out of the rivulet above defendant's, and it was quite pure. The minnows which were put into water got out below the junction with the Alyn and turned sick immediately.

This being the case for the complainant, Mr. Smith asked the Bench if they a case had been made out. The Chairman said he thought there had not, but as perhaps the other magistrates did not agree with him they would retire.— ln a few minutes the magistrates returned, and the Chairman said that the other magistrates thought there was a case, and so Mr. Smith had better proceed with his answer.

On the conclusion of the case for the prosecution Mr. Smith contended that they must prove that at the junction of the Alyn with the tributary passing the works the water was poisonous to fish, and that they had not done, merely alleging it as a matter of opinion. Besides, he should prove that defendant had done all in his power to prevent the pollution, and so conformed to the Act. Mr. A. Liston, manager of the defendants works, said that all that could be done had been done to prevent the pollution of the river. In the first place a separator had been erected, which was effectual in separating the oil from the water, but not in extracting the acid from the water. They then passed the water through ashes, but they were choked, and the water was then thrown on hot ashes and was evaporated, but in wet weather a little water still escaped; and then it was decided to put up a reverbatory furnace, a well was made, and the water was pumped up and evaporated in the furnace.

They had been instructed to attend daily by Mr. Thompson to keep the water clean, and no costs were ever an object, but he was encouraged to do everything he could to prevent pollution. This being the case fer the defence, Mr. Bridgman contended that it had entirely failed, and said his case had been proved. The complaint was not brought forward in a vindictive spirit, but they would be satisfied with damages of one farthing. What they wanted to show was that a law existed which prevented people from polluting the rivers, and if manufacturers could not carrry on their business without doing so they had no business to be there. The prosecution had proved that on the 14th November deleterious matter had been poured into the river, and it was no answer to that to say that since then something had been done to prevent it.

The bench then retired, an in a few minutes returned and said that the majority were of opinion that the case should be dismissed; the defendant had done all in his power to prevent pollution, The Chairman was also of opinion that the prosecution had not made a case at all, inasmuch as between defendants works and the Alyn, Mr Marston's works intervened, from which deleterious matter was stated to flow into the rivulet. He must say that the prosecution whished to enforce the lay, they ought to have commenced with the manufacturer whose works were nearest the Alyn which was alleged to be polluted.

The Cheshire Observer, 27th January 1871