Three companies and a council get sewage fines

Severn Trent, Northumbrian and Wessex Water have all been recently fined for sewage pollution. Plymouth City Council was also fined as the maintenance contractor responsible for a sewage pumping station which caused a discharge into a river.

Severn Trent Water was fined £7,700 and ordered to pay costs of £2,300 on 13 May after admitting to polluting a Staffordshire stream with sewage.

The company appeared before Newcastle-under-Lyme magistrates to answer a charge of failing to observe its discharge consent’s conditions, contrary to section 85(6) of the Water Resources Act 1991.

The court heard Environment Agency officers noticed the Park brook at Trentham was polluted with sewage in January last year. They found dead fish and sewage fungus, which is a sign of prolonged pollution by organic matter.

The pollution was tracked to a Severn Trent pumping station in Newcastle-under-Lyme. Both pumps at the site had tripped and needed to be reset, meanwhile sewage had built up and overflowed into the stream. The company had not fitted an alarm to the site to warn of overflows.

  • Plymouth City Council was also fined for a sewage overflow from a pumping station. It appeared before Plymouth magistrates on 13 May to be sentenced, having admitted causing sewage effluent to enter controlled waters contrary to sections 85(3) and (6) of the 1991 Act, at an earlier hearing. The council was fined £2,000 with costs of £1,222.

    The Agency received reports that sewage was pouring out of a manhole near Ivybridge and entering a tributary of Silverbridge Lake via surface water drains. The cause was a backup of sewage following the breakdown of a pumping station at Rowdown Close.

    The site belonged to South West Water but maintenance had passed to Plymouth City Council in 2005 when the company switched maintenance arrangements. The court heard that the council did not even have keys to the padlocks securing the site.

    "The fact that the council was unable to enter the pumping station suggests that no inspections, maintenance or cleaning has been carried out since the South West Water contractors stopped their routine visits to the site in 2005," Agency officer Mark Jacob said.

  • Northumbrian Water has been fined £4,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,022 after vandals blocked a sewer and caused an overflow into the Elemore Vale burn near Sunderland.

    Agency officers received report from the company that sewage was flowing from a manhole in November 2007. They found the pollution had been entering the stream for some time, causing the growth of sewage fungus and the deposit of a black sludge. A survey of the watercourse showed a severe impact on its ecology for over half a kilometre.

    The cause of the overflow was stones, rubble and other debris thrown into a manhole by vandals.

  • Wessex Water was fined £3,000 with costs of £1,960 on 3 April after failing to comply with its discharge consent at Shaftesbury sewage treatment works.

    Weymouth magistrates heard that a discharge to the sewer from an unidentified source on 27 March 2007 poisoned the sewage treatment process and severely affected its ability to meet discharge consent standards.

    The company tried to tanker away the incoming sewage but did not inform the Agency of the problem for three days.

    The works began to discharge effluent to the Stirchell brook, a tributary of the river Stour, that failed to meet standards for ammonia and biochemical oxygen demand.

    Despite an investigation, the company never found the source of the discharge.