Water Industry News

Yorkshire Water Fined For Raw Sewage Discharge

Utility company Yorkshire Water has been fined £233,000 and ordered to pay £18,766 in costs after it admitted to making unpermitted discharges of raw untreated sewage – which can seriously harm aquatic life – into Tong Beck near Bradford over the course of four days in November 2017.


An investigation by the Environment Agency found that a valve at the Dale Road sewage pumping station in Cockersdale had failed, with a sizeable amount of raw sewage then discharged into the beck.


Because of this discharge, significant damage to the beck’s ecology was caused, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of juvenile and adult brown trout downstream;.


Concerns about the site had been raised by the agency previously after issues manifested themselves with the pumps in 2010/2011. The site had formerly been used as a sewage works but was later converted into a pumping station, with an underground well incorporated from which sewage is sent via a rising main to a local sewage works.


In response to the agency’s concerns, Yorkshire Water upgraded the station and renewed the pumps in 2021. At the time, an isolation valve was installed on the rising main but this was only intended to be a temporary measure and, as such, wasn’t installed to the same standard as permanent infrastructure.


Yorkshire Water also didn’t map it on its asset record system or schedule it for inspection. There was no telemetry monitoring of the rising main, so the company wasn’t notified when the valve failed, nor when sewage was lost from the rising main.


After the incident, Yorkshire Water said they acted quickly once aware of the discharge, commissioning their own sampling and analysis, monitoring the beck and cleaning the site up fully, as well as undertaking repairs to bring the pumping station back into operation quickly.


An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “All businesses, including water companies have a responsibility to ensure their activities do not present a risk of harm to people and the environment. Yorkshire Water’s failure to adequately safeguard its systems has led to significant damage to the ecology of Tong Beck, which may take many years to recover.”


Illegal raw sewage discharges have been hitting the headlines of late, with a new legal duty set to be imposed on water companies as part of the Environment Act 2021 to help crack down on untreated sewage being dumped in waterways all over the country.


It was reported that in 2020, sewage was discharged into rivers and streams more than 400,000 times, with 84 per cent of England’s rivers and lakes failing to meet the government’s own ecological targets.


Further research from the Rivers Trust, National Trust and the RSPB has revealed that waterways are being devastated by raw sewage, pollution from abandoned mines and agricultural waste.


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