Water Industry News

£871,000 Fine For Anglian Water After Pollution Incidents

Utility company Anglian Water has been hit with a combined fine of £871,000 after separate pollution incidents across three counties in its catchment area.


Investigations found that the water supplier was responsible for a series of system and maintenance failures that led to pollution in waterways in Cambridgeshire, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire.


Process failures included reporting delays, faulty screening and a breakdown in planning and maintenance, which resulted in blockages and pollution.


One failure on the part of the company included setting an alarm to the wrong village, which delayed their attendance at the scene for days. A biological survey after the incident revealed that aquatic invertebrates had been killed along a 1,500-metre stretch, going as far down as the next village along.


All the incidents in question took place at Anglian Water sites in the three counties across a period of five months between May and September 2019. The first saw the discharge of poorly treated sewage into the River Lark near Ely, with a blockage then caused by an unmonitored buildup of unflushable items like sanitary pads and cotton buds.


A second incident saw a tributary of the River Tove polluted with sewage from the combined sewer overflow at Hartwell Colmar Kennels.


Speaking at Loughborough Magistrates in October, District Judge Nick Watson said that the company had “dragged its feet” where infrastructure improvements were concerned, adding that these incidents seem to be indicative of “an endemic part of the culture of the organisation at the time of the offences”.


He went on to say: “Water companies have a huge responsibility to proactively manage the resources they have been given a responsibility for. Profit must not be at the cost of the environment.”


Back in July, the Environment Agency published its annual report detailing the environmental performance of water and sewage companies across England, with the performance of nine suppliers now at the lowest levels seen under the Environmental Performance Assessment.


The majority of the firms saw a dip in performance, despite the fact that breaches in the law have resulted in enforcement action taken against them. This suggests that court penalties are not the best way to deter companies from causing environmental harm through their activities.


However, former environment secretary Ranil Jayawardena announced at the start of October that he would push through plans to increase the civil penalties for water companies that do pollute the environment from £250,000 to up to £250 million.


Currently, if water firms don’t uphold the law or damage the environment, the Environment Agency is able to pursue criminal and civil prosecutions, but the former can be both lengthy and expensive, which is why civil cases can be a quicker method of enforcement.


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