One of the UK’s biggest water companies has been ordered to pay almost £200,000 after its sewage flooded into a nearby nature reserve.
Yorkshire Water admitted environmental offences after a leak at its Balby treatment plant, in Doncaster, resulted in excrement and toilet roll spilling into water at the lush Potteric Carr beauty spot.
The issue only came to light when staff at Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, which runs the reserve, smelled chemicals among the network of waterways and ponds. A valve failure was later identified as causing the flood.
Yorkshire Water had already pleaded guilty to two charges of contravening an environmental permit by causing sewage sludge to enter a waterway during an earlier hearing at Sheffield Magistrates Court.
But following a final hearing on Wednesday, the firm – which reported a £1.1bn annual revenue earlier this year – has now been fined £150,000 and ordered to pay costs of £36,506.
The Environment Agency said Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, alerted it to the leak in March 2017.
Officials then identified “small pieces of toilet paper floating in the water, which looked grey,” while “sample results confirmed high levels of ammoniacal nitrogen” present at the site.
Hay bales and aeration equipment had to be brought in to filter the channels most effected.
A spokesperson for the agency added: “Water companies are aware that their activities have the potential for serious environmental impacts, and they know that we will take action when they cause pollution.
“In this case Yorkshire Water has failed the environment, customers and the system of environmental laws the public puts its trust in.
“Polluters must pay. The Environment Agency will continue to do everything in its power to ensure that they do.”
Yorkshire Water apologised and said £640,000 had since been invested in new equipment at the plant.