The ENDS database records fines and enforcement undertakings across the UK The ENDS database records fines and enforcement undertakings across the UK

Water pollution: Britain's 7 largest payouts

Companies that pollute water bodies can be fined through the courts or offer voluntary enforcement undertakings to the environment agencies to avoid criminal sanctions. Here are seven of the biggest water penalties recorded in the ENDS Fines Monitor database.

Thames Water, £20m 

The largest environmental criminal penalty in UK history was handed down for management failures at Thames Water in 2017. The water firm was fined £20m for “systemic” management failures that polluted the Thames and surrounding areas with millions of tonnes of raw sewage. The company was sentenced at Aylesbury Crown Court, having pleaded guilty to six offences in the middle and lower Thames Valley between 2012 and 2014. MORE

Tesco, £8m 

The UK’s largest supermarket chain was prosecuted for allowing 20,000 litres of petrol to escape into sewage systems and waterways in Lancashire in 2014. The spill wiped out 90% of fish, including brown trout, in the nearby river Irwell, with oil detected three miles downstream. MORE

Thames Water, £2m 

Thames Water was hit with a fine of £2m in the courts after a series of failures led to the escape of tens of thousands of litres of raw sewage in Oxfordshire. The pollution incident in 2015 affected two streams in Milton-under-Wychwood, near Chipping Norton, that drain into the river Evenlode, a tributary of the river Thames. It lasted for up to 24 hours, killing more than 100 fish. MORE

Southern Water, £2m

Southern Water was fined £2m at Maidstone Crown Court in December 2016 after pleading guilty to breaching its environmental permit. In late May and early June 2012, Southern Water’s wastewater pumping station at Margate suffered a series of failures resulting in multiple discharges of untreated and partially-screened sewage from the pumping station to the adjacent beach and sea. The fine was double that given to Thames Water in January (below), which was at the time the highest financial penalty to date for a water company in a prosecution brought by the EA. MORE

Yorkshire Water, £1.1m 

Yorkshire Water netted a £1.1m fine for failing to properly maintain its Naburn treatment works in Fulford, which polluted the River Ouse with sewage in 2013. Environment Agency officers first spotted the pollution while carrying out a monitoring survey on the river in August 2013. The river's water quality was affected for up to one kilometre. MORE

Thames Water, £1m 

The water firm was fined in 2016 for polluting the Grand Union Canal. The charges related to repeated sewage discharges from Tring sewage treatment works between July 2012 and April 2013 into the Wendover arm of the Grand Union Canal. MORE

Wessex Water, £975,000 enforcement undertaking

Wessex Water paid an unprecedented £1m for a series of sewage discharges into Swanage Bay in November 2018 – the largest enforcement undertaking payout to date. The undertaking related to unconsented discharges of sewage effluent into Swanage Bay from the town’s sewage treatment works, from July 2016 to August 2017. MORE

FINES MONITOR: View details of tens of millions of pounds of financial penalties issued by regulators for environmental breaches

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