Water Industry News

£540,000 Fine For Northumbrian Water Over Pollution Incident

Utility company Northumbrian Water has been fined £540,000 after a pollution incident that saw sewage effluent discharged into the watercourse running through Heads Hope Dene near Castle Eden on May 22nd 2017.


On the day in question, a blockage in a combined sewer resulted in sewage pouring out of a manhole cover, with discharge making its way into the watercourse. The company self-reported the incident to the Environment Agency, with water sample results showing raw sewage had entered the Dene.


Further surveys found that the ecology and habitat of 2km of the waterway was damaged – and river sampler results also showed a detrimental impact on water quality for 4km.


Environment manager Rachael Caldwell observed that water companies around the UK have a legal duty to avoid pollution – and that they have to act quickly in order to mitigate any damage that could take place because of their activities.


She went on to say: “In this case raw sewage poured out of a manhole cover and into the Dene, which had a negative impact along 4km of the watercourse. Our officers have worked tirelessly to bring this case to court and we’re pleased with the result, which demonstrates our commitment to holding water companies accountable.


“Since 2015, the Environment Agency has brought 46 prosecutions against water companies, securing fines of over £131million. This enforcement action and the pressure it has put on water companies has led to £30billion of investment by the water industry.”


Despite this incident, earlier this year Northumbrian Water achieved the highest rating possible for its environmental performance, with plans now in place to invest £700 million to make even more improvements in this regard.


It achieved the highest possible four stars in the Environment Agency’s Environmental Performance Assessment, retaining its industry-leading position on pollution.


In 2020, the company demonstrated leading environmental practices, going above and beyond its regulatory commitment to the water environment.


Thanks to a dedicated team working to deliver improvements to water quality, wildlife and biodiversity and access for visitors, 28km of water environment was improved in the first year, with the team now looking into plans for the next four years.


Special measures were also put in place to ensure that the company’s work to protect and enhance the environment remained unaffected by the pandemic, with teams taking an active role to support the Environment Agency on pollution investigations caused by third parties.


It also launched its Bin The Wipe campaign last year, which has led to a 40 per cent reduction in wet wipes making their way into sewers, helping to drive down the number of blockages in the network, protecting homes and the environment.


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