South West Water fined £24k for sewage spills

16th May 2012

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South West Water has been fined £24,000 after failings at two of its plants resulted in sewage polluting waterways in Devon and Cornwall

In separate incidents in 2011, a combination of equipment failures and a lack of action by staff resulted in hundreds of thousands of litres of raw sewage being discharged by one plant, and another breaching its environmental permit.

Problems with pumps at the company’s Droskyn sewage pumping station near Perranporth beach, in Cornwall, in June 2011 caused a second nearby station to become overwhelmed as untreated waste backed up, resulting in crude sewage being released into the Bolingey stream.

The site supervisor claimed there would not have been enough time to organise tankers to remove the sewage, but the Environment Agency (EA) said there had been sufficient warning to take measures to stop the discharges.

Four months earlier, water samples taken at the Camels Head treatment works in Plymouth revealed that effluent was not being processed properly. The site had long-running issues with equipment, damaging the effectiveness of the treatment process, which had been exacerbated by other broken machinery and vandalism.

An investigation revealed that problems had been occurring for at least a week before the samples were taken, and that the company failed to notify the EA about the pollution for six days.

“There were many symptoms of problems that South West Water should have acted on,” said the agency’s Sarah Taylor. “The pollution could have been avoided [and] this lack of action resulted in a nearby special area of conservation being put at risk.”

The company was fined £16,500 for the Camels Head incident and £7,500 for the spill in Cornwall.

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