Yorkshire Water fined £350,000 for sewage offence

19th August 2016

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Business & Industry ,
  • Water ,
  • Pollution & Waste Management ,
  • Prosecution



Yorkshire Water has been fined £350,000 and ordered to pay costs of £30,000 after it illegally discharged sewage into a Harrogate river.

The incident took place in 2013 after a blockage in the sewer caused untreated and unscreened sewage to flow into Rud Beck and the River Crimple.

Prosecuting for the Environment Agency, Richard Bradley told Bradford Crown Court that toilet rolls and rags could be seen, and the water downstream was a cloudy, yellow-grey colour and there was a strong smell of sewage. Samples showed high levels of ammonia and low levels of dissolved oxygen.

Yorkshire Water had notified the agency of the blockage on 15 April 2013 but further investigations revealed that sewage had been discharging from the overflow for three days before the regulator was alerted.

The company’s telemetry alarm system, which should have notified staff that there was a problem, had been malfunctioning for a month because it had not been reset after a previous warning. The company had also failed to detect an increase in the telemetry levels on 12 April.

A spokesperson for the agency said untreated sewage was present in Rud Beck for 87 hours and caused significant pollution to more than 5 km of the watercourse and the river into which it flows.

The spokesperson added: ‘It is not uncommon for foreign objects to enter a sewer and cause blockages and this is why telemetry is so important. The impact of this discharge would have been significantly less if the telemetry had been working properly or if Yorkshire Water had detected the increase in the telemetry levels and responded sooner.’

Yorkshire Water proactively reported the breach, co-operated with the investigation and organised and paid for watercourse to be cleaned.

The firm told the court that it had upgraded its telemetry equipment in May 2013 and introduced a clear escalation procedure for responding to contradictions in the system.

A spokesperson for the company said: ‘Since this incident we have taken action to reduce the risk of something like this happening again and remain committed to constantly improving our pollution prevention systems.

‘Yorkshire Water operates approximately 1,800 combined sewer overflows across the region and this one incident does not reflect on its overall performance.’

Meanwhile, the agency has published a list of civil sanctions imposed on companies that have breached their environmental permits. Civil sanctions were introduced in 2008 and allow the agency to tackle environmental offences without going to court.

A total of 18 civil sanctions were imposed between 1 January and 31 July, 11 of which were proactive, meaning that the offender informed the agency voluntarily of the breach. In the other seven cases, the agency discovered the breach.

Most of the cases related to a breach of the producer responsibility obligations where companies had failed to take reasonable steps to recover and recycle packaging waste. Firms fined include:

  • Bahlsen Management – £20,000 to the Woodland Trust and £19,800 to the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust;
  • Cobell, which – £33,723 to the Woodland Trust;
  • Cracker Drinks ¬– £500 to the New Forest Trust;
  • Frobishers Juices – £7,387 to the Woodland Trust;
  • Garden Selections – £3,307, split between the Marine Conservation Society and Dorset Wildlife Trust;
  • Gonzalez Byass – £120,000 to the Woodland Trust;
  • Hameln Pharmaceutical – £35,000 to the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum;
  • Lamberts Healthcare – £10,000, split between the Sussex Wildlife Trust and Kent Wildlife Trust;
  • Lyme Bay Cider – £11,567 to the British Beekeepers Association;
  • Paperchase – £19,018 to the Woodland Trust;
  • Phaseolus – £3,855 to the How Hill Trust;
  • Probiotics International – £12,331 to Carrymoor Environmental Trust;
  • Syncreon Technology UK – £6,095 to the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire; and
  • Trelleborg Holdings UK – £10,619 to the Freshwater Habitats Trust.

The regulator also imposed sanctions for water pollution. Companies involved in these cases were:

  • E and JW Glendinning – £70,000 to the Westcountry Rivers Trust; and
  • FG Palmer and Sons – £5,000 to the Westcountry Rivers Trust.

The final sanctions were for breaching environmental permits, with two firms fined:

  • FG Brewer and Sons – £8,500 to the Westcountry Rivers Trust; and
  • Weststar Holidays – £12,000, split between the National Trust and Marine Conservation Society.

The agency also gave Lime Property Fund a fixed monetary penalty of £300 for breaching its licence conditions under the Water Resources Act 1991.


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

UK public wants more involvement in planning process, IEMA research finds

Three in five British adults want more public involvement in the planning system, which could be at odds with Labour’s plans to boost economic growth, IEMA research has found.

3rd July 2024

Read more

Consumers are flexing their purchasing power in support of more sustainable products and services. Dr Andrew Coburn, CEO of sustainability intelligence and analytics firm, Risilience, considers the risk of greenwashing and sets out three key steps businesses can take to avoid the pitfalls and meet the opportunities of changing consumer demand.

18th June 2024

Read more

Groundbreaking legislation on air and noise pollution and measures to tackle growing concerns over disposable vapes provide the focus for Neil Howe’s environmental legislation update

6th June 2024

Read more

One in five UK food businesses are not prepared for EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) coming into force in December, a new survey has uncovered.

16th May 2024

Read more

Regulatory gaps between the EU and UK are beginning to appear, warns Neil Howe in this edition’s environmental legislation round-up

4th April 2024

Read more

Dr Julie Riggs issues a call to arms to tackle a modern-day human tragedy

15th March 2024

Read more

The UK’s new biodiversity net gain (BNG) requirements could create 15,000 hectares of woodlands, heath, grasslands, and wetlands and absorb 650,000 tonnes of carbon each year.

13th March 2024

Read more

Campaign group Wild Justice has accused the UK government of trying to relax pollution rules for housebuilders “through the backdoor”.

14th February 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close