In court: November 2015

4th November 2015

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Pollution & Waste Management ,
  • Water ,
  • Environment agencies ,
  • Environment Agency ,
  • Prosecution


Colleen Theron

A round-up of the latest environmental court cases.

Severn Trent fined £480,000 for double pollution incident

Pollution of a pond and then a brook in Rotherham, south Yorkshire, has cost Severn Trent Water almost £500,000 in fines and costs. The utility company had already been warned about previous incidents when these ones occurred.

Sheffield Crown Court fined the company £480,000 after raw sewage twice leaked from a 35-year-old pipe into Slacks pond in Bramley, near Rotherham, on 25 February and 26 March 2014. Sheffield Piscatorial Society uses the pond and the pollution killed dozens of fish. The second incident also resulted in sewage polluting a nearby brook and prevented a farmer accessing the field under which the pipe ran, leading to the loss of a crop of rapeseed.

The court was told that the Environment Agency had twice formally warned the company before the incidents and that the pipe had ruptured in the same location four times in 12 months. "We were particularly concerned that, after two formal warnings from the agency about sewage leaking into fields and watercourses the third rupture was undetected by Severn Trent and there was then yet another incident in the same location," said a spokesperson for the agency.

Planning permission had been granted in October 2013 to replace the pipe, but Severn Trent did not complete the work, which cost £275,000, until August 2014. Judge Mark Gargan said the company should have acted more quickly and had been negligent. "It seems there is no real adequate explanation of why the matter took until August 2014," he said.

Severn Trent was fined £240,000 for each offence and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £13,675.38 plus a £120 victim surcharge.

The agency said the fine was one of the largest imposed on a water company. In March, United Utilities was fined £750,000 by Preston Crown Court for polluting Duddon estuary in Cumbria with 7 million litres of sewage; and, in November 2014, Southern Water received a £500,000 penalty after discharging untreated sewage at Swalecliffe Brook in Kent in July 2013.

CJEU rules on chemical disclosure

The Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) has ruled against public disclosure of data on the volume of hazardous chemicals manufactured in or imported to the EU.

The environmental law body, ClientEarth, and the NGO, International Chemical Secretariat, argued that the REACH Regulation required the European Chemicals Agency to disclose the amount of chemicals manufactured or imported. But the CJEU ruled in favour of the agency, stating that disclosure could undermine commercial interests. "The [agency] was entitled to take the view that the disclosure of the precise tonnage of the substances registered would have undermined the commercial interests of the persons concerned," it said.

The CJEU also ruled against a second claim by the two organisations that placing chemical substances on the market would lead to them being released to the environment, which would render them emissions. In its judgment, the CJEU stated: "The manufacture of a substance or placing it on the market cannot per se be regarded as the release of that substance into the environment."

Sewage breach costs pub £154,716

The Spirit Pub Company has been fined £150,000 for failing to treat effectively sewage from the Cross Keys Inn in Guisborough, Cleveland.

The inn has an environmental permit so that it can discharge treated sewage effluent into a nearby stream. However, on 21 April 2014 brown effluent from the inn was found in the watercourse. The Environment Agency warned the inn to take immediate action but, on 24 April, effluent was again found going into the water from the inn's outfall.

The company pleaded guilty at Teesside magistrates' court to two charges of breaching its permit conditions and one for not sufficiently maintaining the sewage treatment works. It was fined £50,000 for each offence and ordered to pay costs of £4,596 and a victim surcharge of £120.


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