United Utilities fined £145k for sewage offences

8th June 2011


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  • Pollution & Waste Management

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IEMA

Water company United Utilities has been ordered to pay more than £170,000 after pleading guilty to discharging partially treated sewage into the River Mersey.

The firm, which supplies more than seven million people with water in north-west England, also admitted to repeatedly failing to meet water treatment quality standards, and was convicted of a string of environmental offences by Liverpool Magistrates’ Court yesterday (7 June 2011).

The court heard that because it was unable to treat all of the effluent coming into its Liverpool wastewater treatment works, the company released sewage into the river in January 2010 through an unmonitored emergency overflow pipe.

The actions resulted in the company being prosecuted under the Water Resources Act 1991 and the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010.

The Environment Agency has urged companies to learn from this case and ensure they have the correct monitoring and processes in place to minimise their environmental impact.

“We would encourage all industries to ensure that the proper monitoring and process controls are in place to minimise their environmental impact and ensure that they comply with environmental standards required by law to protect and improve the environment,” said Keith Ashcroft, Environment Agency area manager.

The performance of the Liverpool wastewater treatment works had been subject to action from the Environment Agency in the past, and the company has since spent £75 million to improve the works.

The firm also pleaded guilty to breaching the Urban Waste Water Treatment Regulations 1994 in 2008, 2009 and 2010, by failing to limit the biochemical oxygen demand and chemical oxygen demand in the water it discharged into the River Mersey, which can lessen the amount of oxygen present in the water.

These breaches also led to three offences under the Water Resources Act 1991 and further four under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010.

At the hearing Liverpool Magistrates fined the company £140,000 and ordered it to pay the Environment Agency £28,428 costs.

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