Severn Trent Water fined £1.5m for illegal sewage discharges

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Water company Severn Trent has been fined £1.5m by a court for illegal sewage discharges from its wastewater treatment plants.

The firm was fined for discharges from four sewage treatment works in Worcestershire between February and August 2018, the Environment Agency said.

The water company failed to respond to alarms warning of a blockage, failed to adequately manage sewage sludge, and failed to adequately manage a situation when a piece of equipment failed, Kidderminster magistrates court was told.

About 360,000 litres of raw sewage were illegally discharged as a result of the breaches at four water treatment plants in Worcestershire.

Severn Trent pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.

Prosecuting for the Environment Agency, James Puzey said Severn Trent Water failed to respond promptly to alarms at its sewage treatment works at Blackminster, near Evesham, in February 2018.

A blockage to the works resulted in approximately 360,000 litres of sewage being illegally discharged to the nearby Broadway Brook. It was hours before Severn Trent Water operatives attended to take remedial action.

The court also heard how over the winter of 2017/2018, Severn Trent Water failed to adequately manage treatment of sewage sludge at other treatment works in Worcestershire.

In passing sentence, district judge Ian Strongman said in respect of the Blackminster incident that “alarms were not actioned as they should have been”. This resulted in the works “discharging for four hours”.

The court heard that Severn Trent Water’s previous convictions were an aggravating feature of the prosecution.

David Throup, environment manager for the Environment Agency’s West Midlands area, said: “Incidents like this are preventable and are completely unacceptable, particularly at a time when the need to protect the water environment for wildlife and people has never been greater and when public consciousness on environmental matters is so high.”

The water company has also been ordered to pay prosecution costs of £58,365.

Last summer the company was fined £800,000 for discharging 3.8m litres of raw sewage into a Shropshire stream between November 2014 and May 2016.

The Environment Agency and Ofwat are investigating several water companies after they admitted they may have illegally discharged raw sewage from their wastewater treatment plants. The investigation involves about 2,000 sewage treatment works, but the agency will not reveal which companies are involved.

A Severn Trent spokesperson said: “We take our role in protecting and caring for our region’s rivers extremely seriously, which is why we have consistently been recognised as a leading UK water company and awarded the very highest four star status by the Environment Agency.

“These were historic issues that occurred in 2018 and we self-reported them to the Environment Agency at the time; we have been open and transparent with them throughout the process. We accept and take seriously the court’s findings; we have learned the lessons from the incidents to ensure that we continue to work to the highest environmental standards.”

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