Utilities giant Severn Trent has been fined £350,000 for a pollution incident in the River Amber, Derbyshire.
The fine is in addition to a £68,003 payment to the Environment Agency and a £120 victim surcharge.
The Environment Agency received reports of “several hundred dead fish” along the River Amber, back in November 2015. After an investigation, which saw an estimated 30,000 dead fish and 5km of damaged ecology along the river, the source of the pollution was deemed to be sodium hydroxide from the Ogston water treatment works.
Severn Trent Water identified that a leak within a chamber at the works had led to the contents becoming contaminated with sodium hydroxide, which was then released into the River Amber from its discharge pipes.
The Environment Agency has been monitoring the recovery of the ecology for two years. It estimates that the river will not be considered fully recovered until at least the summer of 2018.
During sentencing, it was also stated that Severn Trent had “no policy whatsoever” with regard to potential incidents occurring from the dosing chamber that was the source of the leak, or from that type of chamber in any other treatment centre in the UK.
In a statement from the sentencing judge, it was made clear that “to have no policy whatsoever when dangerous chemicals could have leaked out in any number of ways is highly negligent. The size and success of Severn Trent makes it even more astonishing.”
In addition to the fine, costs and surcharge, Severn Trent made a donation of £228,000 to Derbyshire Wildlife Trust to fund sustainable improvements to the River Amber.