Southern Water disputes record £2.5m in prosecution costs

The Environment Agency is seeking a massive £2.5m from Southern Water to pay for the prosecution that culminated in a record £90m fine last week.

Herne Bay was one of several locations affected by the illegal sewage discharges. Photograph: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images Herne Bay was one of several locations affected by the illegal sewage discharges. Photograph: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

The dispute explains why the Environment Agency made no mention of costs after the unprecedented sentence was handed down on Friday. A spokesperson for the regulator said that the requested sum reflects the scale of the investigation, which had been conducted for many years.

So far as ENDS is aware, the Environment Agency has never sought costs of such magnitude before. 

READ MORE: Record £90m fine for Southern Water’s ‘repeated and deliberate’ sewage pollution

READ MORE: In numbers: Southern Water's record-breaking fine

The costs for Thames Water’s sometime record-breaking fine of £19.75m were comparatively modest at £611,140. The Health and Safety Executive obtained £1m in costs against Valero Energy for a lethal explosion at Pembroke oil refinery. The firm was fined £5m, though it was paid by Chevron. In 2017, a substantial spill from a Tesco service station was punished by a fine of £8m, with costs of only £35,434.

At the moment, it is not clear when a hearing to finalise Southern Water’s costs will take place.

In a statement to ENDS, Southern Water said: “It is incorrect to say we are contesting costs. The judge agreed to defer the question of costs to allow us to review the full and detailed schedule and breakdown provided by the Environment Agency in the latter stages of the hearing. This is normal practice. We are confident an agreement on costs will be presented to the court.”

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