Water Industry News

£560,000 Fine For Anglian Water In Pollution Incident

Utility company Anglian Water has been fined £560,000 after millions of litres of sewage was discharged into the upper River Wid (also known as Doddinghurst Brook), killing fish and invertebrates along a three-kilometre stretch.


An investigation by the Environment Agency revealed planning, management and monitoring failures by the company at its Doddinghurst Water Recycling Centre near Brentwood in Essex.


In September and October 2018, over 3.9 million litres of harmful sewage was discharged and went unchecked for 2.5 days, which damaged the local ecosystem and killed numerous bullhead fish, which is a protected species.


Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court heard how there was a fault in an aeration process, which caused the sewage discharge into the tributary. The lack of an early alarm system compounded the situation, because staff were not alerted to any issues.


Gavin Senior, environment officer at the Environment Agency, said: “The fine handed to Anglian Water shows polluters are made to pay for damaging the environment. The invertebrate and fish population in this area, including a protected species, suffered significantly because of this sewage pollution. It took time for the local ecosystem to recover.


“The public demands tough action when it comes to water quality and we are delivering. Anyone caught breaching environmental laws faces enforcement action, up to and including prosecution.”


District Judge Sam Goozee described the utility company’s record as “lamentable”, with the court hearing that an investment of £205 in software could have been retrospectively fitted to the system when a fault occurred in the aeration process earlier in the year.


This comes after the company was fined over £1.2 million for pollution incidents in the east of England that involved blockages and broken infrastructure.


In this instance, four cases of pollution were seen in Cambridgeshire, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire between May and September 2019 because of system and maintenance failures that included faulty screening, breakdowns in planning and reporting delays.


Environment secretary Ranil Jayawardena recently announced that civil penalties for water firms polluting the environment would increase from £250,000 to £250 million. Even though fines in criminal cases are unlimited, civil sanctions are often pursued because criminal prosecutions can be both lengthy and expensive.


Last year, 62 serious pollution incidents were caused by water companies, up on the 44 seen in 2020. Plans are now in place to encourage suppliers to make investments in infrastructure to help minimise these incidents and ensure that freshwater resources are safeguarded for future generations.


The Environment Agency has also driven up the monitoring of and transparency from water companies in the last few years or so, including event duration monitoring and increased overflow monitoring, with plans in place to fit all 15,000 overflows by the end of 2023.


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