Second fine for Thames Water over sewage

20th December 2011

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  • Water ,
  • Ecosystems ,
  • Corporate fine ,
  • Prosecution ,
  • Environment agencies



The UK's largest water company has been fined twice in seven days for polluting waterways in Berkshire and East Hampshire with sewage.

Thames Water has been ordered to pay more than £100,000 in fines and costs after pleading guilty to multiple breaches of the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010 in two separate prosecutions.

On 8 December, Winchester Crown Court ordered the firm to pay more than £61,000 in fines and costs after effluent from its Silchester sewage treatment works entered nearby brooks in July 2010 and killed up to 22,000 fish.

A week later Aldershot Magistrates’ Court fined the firm a further £16,000 and ordered it to pay £8,000 in costs for failing to report a separate sewage spill in December 2010 from its Arford sewage pumping station.

In both cases the pollution caused the death of local fish, but the Silchester spill was particularly serious with Environment Agency officers working for five days to counter the affects of the pollutants, which had spread the entire length of the Silchester and Foudry brooks near Reading.

The Silchester incidence occurred when an employee emptied two storm tanks full of sewage sludge into the works instead of waiting for a tanker that had been due to remove the waste. The amount of sewage overwhelmed the system and, despite measures taken by Thames Water to mitigate the issue, untreated sludge was discharged into the waterways having what the Environment Agency described as a “catastrophic impact” on the wildlife.

Thames Water faced potential fines of up to £50,000 for the incident, but in sentencing the firm to a fine of £29,985, Judge Dixon said the court had taken into account the firm’s swift actions in responding to the spill and its early admission of fault.

Claire Bale, lead investigating officer for the Environment Agency, said the agency was still pleased with the result.

“The court has recognised the gravity of this incident and we hope that this fine will act as an incentive to other operators to ensure they have appropriate procedures in place to better protect their local environment and community,” she said.

Thames Water has apologised for the spill, which it described as “deeply regrettable”, and has committed to working with the Environment Agency to restock the brook with fish.

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