Water firm fined for effluent offence

Welsh Water and Hyder Utilities (Operations) appeared before Haverfordwest magistrates on 23 October to plead guilty to polluting the Afon Syfynwy in Pembrokeshire with a toxic sludge containing aluminium. The court heard that 6,000 fish, mainly trout, died as a result of the discharge in August 1999, which affected 3.1 kilometres of the river.

The discharge occurred from the Rosebush Preseli water treatment works which was owned by Welsh Water and operated by Hyder Utilities. Welsh Water pleaded guilty to a charge of discharging trade effluent to controlled waters, contrary to section 85(6) of the 1991 Act. It was fined £2,000.

Hyder pleaded guilty to causing polluting matter to enter the river, contrary to section 85(1) of the 1991 Act, and to causing waters to be poisonous to fish, contrary to section 4 of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975. It was fined £2,000 and £500, respectively. The court also ordered Hyder to pay £13,021 in costs.

The Agency described the fine as "disappointing" for such a serious incident. The case is also interesting since it involves both asset-owning and operation arms of water companies - a structure now increasingly favoured by the industry. Both are clearly likely to be prosecuted for pollution, but this case suggests the penalty has been shared between the two rather than doubled.

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