Severn Trent fined £24k for polluting lake again

9th February 2012


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  • Ecosystems ,
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  • Corporate fine ,
  • Prosecution

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IEMA

Lincoln magistrates' court has fined water company Severn Trent £24,000 after the firm pleaded guilty to polluting a fishing lake for the fourth time in seven years.

In April 2011, hundreds of fish died and more had to be rescued from Heapham Lakes near Gainsborough after effluent from a blocked sewer flooded into a local nature reserve.

The blockage went untreated for a week, with the resulting pollution contaminating three miles of waterways and leaving the fishing lakes with levels of biochemical pollutants more than 170 times higher than normal river water.

Severn Trent blamed a change of processes and a newly installed IT system, as the reasons for the delay in rectifying the problem. A service delivery manager for the company told Environment Agency (EA) officers the IT system, used for prioritising work, had moved jobs to an error queue incorrectly and that the two-day delay it caused was exacerbated by scheduling errors.

As a result, the blockage in the sewer was not cleared until 7 April, when the EA had been informed of the sewage flooding on 29 March and, according to Severn Trent, such cases would normally be responded to in six hours.

EA officer Sarah Gillanders confirmed: “Had Severn Trent responded sooner, the serious effect of the pollution could have been minimised.”

On 8 April, 360 carp, bream, tench and pike were found dead in the lake; the third time fish have been killed in the area as a result of sewage pollution caused by Severn Trent. Two separate incidents in 2004 saw 7,000 fish killed by pollution in April and then specimens brought in to restock the lake killed later in the year. While a further sewage leak in 2007 didn’t harm wildlife.

The firm, which has more than eight million UK customers, told the court it had spent £84,000 on investigating the cause of the pollution and restoring the lake, and confirmed it would again pay to restock the fish.

Severn Trent’s solicitor, Mark Scoggins, argued that the firm had not ignored the problem and workers had visited the site three times to try to clear the blockage, but had been unsuccessful. Had the company known pollution had leaked from the blockage it would have responded quicker, he said.

Following the incident, the company has made changes to its IT system and implemented measures to ensure the affected stretch of sewer is cleaned twice a year.

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