Water company pays for environmental damage

24th March 2022


Yorkshire Water has agreed to pay £300,000 to Yorkshire Wildlife Trust following a sewage discharge incident in Leeds in 2018.

The company had breached its environmental permit with an unauthorised sewage discharge from its Garforth Storm Tanks, which caused pollution at Kippax Beck. Flows at Garforth Storm Tanks are managed by an automated valve that controls and isolates sewage. The tanks fill during times of heavy rainfall. If the valve fully closes, all sewage and rainfall are diverted to the storm tanks and an alarm alerts Yorkshire Water. Sewage levels in the tanks are then monitored using level sensors and alarms.

On 17 November 2018, the Environment Agency alerted Yorkshire Water to discoloured water in Kippax Beck. It was discovered that the valve was fully closed, which meant the storm tanks had filled and were discharging into a nearby watercourse. Neither the valve alarm or storm tank sewage level alarms had triggered, meaning the system had appeared to be operating as normal.

The impact was widespread, affecting the beck and its wildlife for 3.3km.

Yorkshire Water agreed an enforcement undertaking withmthe Environment Agency, and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust will use the donation to fund a series of projects at nature reserves in the Lower Aire valley.

The offer also sets out the steps taken for improvements, including replacing and repairing machinery and equipment, carrying out a review of alarms, and completing an environmental survey.

It’s been a bad start to 2022 for Yorkshire Water, which was also fined £233,000, plus £18,766.06 costs and a £170 victim surcharge, after admitting responsibility for a 2017 sewage leak that led to the deaths of hundreds of fish in Tong Beck near Bradford.

Concerns had been raised following issues with pumps at the Dale Road site, which is automated and unmanned. The water company had upgraded the station and renewed the pumps in 2012 in response, installing what was intended to be a temporary isolation valve on the rising main just outside the boundary.

Since the pumping station is not manned, a telemetry system monitors whether the pumps are working. However, there was no such monitoring of the rising main, so the system did not notify Yorkshire Water of the valve failure or resulting loss of sewage from the rising main.

An estimated 20m litres of sewage were discharged over a four-day period.

Since 2015, the Environment Agency has secured water company court fines of more than £137m.

Image credit | Shutterstock

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