Water Industry News

£1 Million Enforcement Undertaking By Yorkshire Water For Pollution

Water wholesaler Yorkshire Water has submitted an enforcement undertaking to the Environment Agency, suggesting that it makes a charitable donation of £1 million following a breach of its environmental permit that polluted Hookstone Beck.


The company made an unauthorised sewage discharge from the Hookstone Road combined sewer overflow in August 2016, with agency officers tracing the flow of pollution and finding that the overflow had been blocked. Faulty telemetry equipment meant that Yorkshire Water hadn’t been alerted to the fact.


As a result of the pollution, almost 1,500 fish were killed and the water quality affected for 2.5km downstream. In the months after the incident, further blockages took place and additional discharges were made.


To make amends, Yorkshire Water has now paid £500,000 to Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and £500,000 to Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust. It has also carried out £1.85 million worth of improvements and rebuilding work on the overflow and the sewer network to ensure it remains compliant with the environmental permit in place.


Yorkshire Wildlife Trust plans to use its payment to improve wildlife habitats in North Yorkshire, with a particular focus on local wetland reserves. This will include the reprofiling of Ripon City Wetlands to provide wading birds with muddy shores, as well as safe breeding islands. Invasive plants will also be removed.


And Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust will use its payment to make improvements along the River Nidd, working alongside local communities and the Dales to Vales Rivers Network catchment partnership.


Claire Barrow, area environment manager in Yorkshire with the Environment Agency, commented on the case, saying: “We always consider enforcement options on a case by case basis and enforcement undertakings allow companies to put right what went wrong and contribute to environmental improvements and outcomes.


“This significant £1million civil sanction will be invested back into the local area to enhance the environment for people and wildlife.


“The Environment Agency investigation also led to significant improvements to the sewer network in this area to prevent repeat incidents and ensure future compliance with environmental requirements.”


Enforcement undertakings are voluntary offers made by companies or individuals to help make up for offences, typically featuring a payment to an environmental charity so that improvement work can be carried out in the affected area.


Sewage discharges from combined sewer overflows have been hitting the headlines hard of late, with figures from Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) showing that there were 399,864 discharges of untreated sewage last year. Furthermore, 75 per cent of rivers in the UK now pose serious risks to human health.


But despite this significant dip in water quality, utility firms paid out a total of £965 million in shareholder dividends for the 2021/2022 financial year… and CEOs pocketed £16.5 million, according to a recent SAS Water Quality Report.


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