Wessex Water pays for polluting nature reserve

3rd April 2020

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Sinead Bernard

Wessex Water offered to pay an enforcement undertaking of £35,000 towards environmental improvements at Stoborough Heath nature reserve after a sewer main burst in January 2018, polluting a surface water ditch.

Stoborough Heath is a National Nature Reserve owned and managed by the RSPB and Natural England. It has numerous water-filled ditches that are rich in plant and animal life.

The pollution had a severe impact on aquatic invertebrates over a distance of approximately 100 metres, deteriorating water quality. This was shown from raised levels of ammonia and sewage fungus in the ditch. There was no impact on the main watercourse.

Wessex Water reported the incident and later admitted an unauthorised discharge of sewage to a surface water ditch contrary to the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016. It has since spent £50,000 installing a burst detection system along the rising main that caused the pollution.

Janine Maclean of the Environment Agency discussed the enforcement undertaking, commenting that the incident had had a clear and significant impact on Stoborough Heath. “The £35,000 enforcement undertaking has ensured local charities and projects benefit and will be spent on improving the local environment. The burst detection system installed by Wessex Water will ensure any future bursts will be detected earlier and prevent significant damage should a similar incident occur in the future.“

An enforcement undertaking is a civil sanction used in less serious cases where it is not in the public interest to prosecute. They can be used to change behaviour, ensure future compliance, put right any environmental harm, benefit those impacted and improve the environment.

The Environment Agency accepted Wessex Water's offer of £25,000 to the RSPB. The money will be spent on ditch and wetland habitat restoration at Lytchett Fields and heathland management at the RSPB's nearby Arne reserve.

In addition, Wessex Water offered £10,000 to Dorset Wildlife Trust towards environmental improvements as part of the Poole Harbour Catchment Partnership Project. It also carried out further actions to benefit an impacted third party, and agreed to pay the Environment Agency's £2,497.30 legal costs.

Picture credit: Shutterstock


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