Wash, rinse, repeat: are tougher penalties the answer to stalled water pollution performance?

Prosecutions for water pollution incidents are resulting in larger penalties for water companies and the Environment Agency is making greater use of enforcement undertakings, but utility firms’ performance has plateaued. James Fair investigates

Dead fish in river

Thames Water holds the record for a £20.36m fine for water pollution spanning several years, killing fish and other river life 

During the August bank holiday in 2015, a dislodged brick blocked a sewer in Brook Street in Dawlish, causing raw effluent to overflow into a brook that runs through this small town on the south Devon coast. It took utility firm South West Water six hours to send an emergency crew to the correct location, necessitating the closure of the beach for 24 hours. For discharging pollutants into the brook, the company was fined more than £86,000.

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