The company, appearing before North Devon magistrates on 19 February, pleaded guilty to causing polluting matter to enter the Bullow brook at Winkleigh, contrary to section 85(1) of the Water Resources Act 1991. It was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £1,150 in costs.
Sewage was found in a section of the brook alongside Winkleigh Primary School on 14 July 2003, but Environment Agency officers were unable to find any problem at the local sewage pumping station.
The next day contractors discovered that a blockage in a foul sewer was causing sewage to overflow into the brook via an emergency outfall. The discharge had contaminated 1.5 kilometres of the brook so seriously that two farmers were warned to keep their livestock away.
The court heard that South West Water had no consent to discharge from the outfall. A thick growth of sewage fungus in the brook also suggested that the discharge had been occurring for several days.
South West Water has already been fined twice previously this year. Its fines for 2004 now total £20,000.