Repeated raw sewage leaks, lead to one of the largest water company fines

Posted: Wednesday 21st October 2015

On 23 September 2015, at Sheffield Crown Court, Severn Trent Water Limited was fined £480,000, ordered to pay Environment Agency Costs of £13,675.38 as well as a victim surcharge of £120.

Proceedings were brought by the Environment Agency following repeated pollution incidents where raw sewage leaked into a farmer’s field and a pond in a private fishery. The incidents occurred on 25 February 2014 and 26 March 2014. The company had been warned on 2 previous occasions for similar incidents at the same location.

The Severn Trent pipeline that transported raw sewage to a treatment plant ruptured at the same point, which led to 4 pollution incidents within a year. The pollution directly contributed to fish deaths and samples taken by the Environment Agency suggested that it had also affected the local invertebrate community including freshwater shrimps.

In passing sentence, the Judge stated that both offences were committed negligently and that the harm to the environment was localised, and therefore minor, albeit significant to those affected by the incident. The offences were aggravated by the fact that there had been previous warnings issued for 2 earlier incidents.

Speaking after the case, an Environment Agency officer involved with the investigation said:

“We were particularly concerned that, after 2 formal warnings from the Environment Agency about sewage leaking into fields and watercourses the third rupture was undetected by Severn Trent Water Ltd and there was then yet another incident in the same location.”

“This is one of the largest fines ever to be imposed on a water company, and I hope it sends a strong message that it is far more cost effective to avoid these incidents, as we will continue to take companies and individuals to task where they ignore their responsibilities.”

The FTSE 100 water and sewerage services company saw a 3.2pc rise in profits before exceptional items to £540.3m in its full-year financial results, published earlier this year.

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