Water company fined £6,000 for "emergency" discharge

North West Water (NWW) was ordered to pay £6,400 in fines and costs in May over a sewage discharge which it claimed occurred as the result of an emergency. The point was not tested in court due to a last-minute change of plea, but the case nevertheless sheds light on the stance of the National Rivers Authority (NRA) on emergency discharges.

Under both the Water Act 1989 and its successor, the Water Resources Act 1991, a defence against a charge of water pollution can be that the discharge concerned was made in an emergency "to avoid danger to life or health". In such cases, the defendant must also show that he took all reasonably practicable steps to minimise the discharge and its polluting effects, and that the particulars of the discharge were reported to the NRA as soon as pra

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