How deliberate data manipulation earned a utility a record penalty

The Environment Agency is investigating Southern Water after Ofwat fined the firm £126m for deliberately dodging wastewater sampling, but will it prosecute or has it ‘gone soft on polluters’? James Fair reports

Southern Water deliberately transported wastewater from one treatment works to another in order to avoid analysing samples as required under the Operator Self-Monitoring programme that was set up by the Environment Agency in 2009.

This so-called ‘tankering’ strategy, which was operating between 2010 and 2017, was designed to hide the true performance of those treatment works in processing sewage, the water industry regulator Ofwat concluded in a report published at the end of June. It has issued Southern Water with a £3m fine (reduced from £37.7m) and ordered it to pay back £126m to its customers over a five-year period. 

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