Water company slapped with over £1.2 million in fines for separate pollution incidents

Anglian Water has been hit with two fines totalling over £1.2 million after two separate court cases found the company responsible for pollution incidents.

On 12 October, the company was ordered at Loughborough Magistrates Court to pay a £871,000 fine after causing several incidents of pollution across Cambridgeshire, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire between May and September 2019. According to the Environment Agency, the incidents were due to “a catalogue” of system and maintenance failures.

The court heard that at one site an unchecked build-up of items such as cotton buds and sanitary pads caused a blockage that resulted in settled sludge being discharged into the treated sewage. Another incident saw dead aquatic invertebrates being recorded for 1,500 metres, according to the EA.

The water company was also ordered to pay £37,605 in EA costs.

In a separate case the same day at Cambridge Magistrates Court, Anglian Water was sentenced to pay £350,000 after a pumped sewer at Caldecott in Cambridgeshire burst. This was the sixth time this has happened since 2004. Alongside the fine, they were told to pay £28,025 in costs as well as a victim surcharge of £181.

According to the EA, officers visiting the site in September 2019 found ammonia and low oxygen levels in the water, posing a potential risk to wildlife at the site. Anglian Water was unable to stop the polluted water from spreading  and a total of 4km of the watercourse was affected for at least five days. The court found that Anglian Water was too slow in putting in place potential mitigation measures.

Anglian Water pleaded guilty to causing poisonous, noxious, or polluting matter to enter inland freshwaters without an environmental permit.

Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency, said: “Serious pollution is a serious crime and I welcome these sentences from the courts.

“The Environment Agency will pursue any water company that fails to uphold the law or protect nature, and will continue to press for the strongest possible penalties for those which do not.”

Anglian water was also fined over £360,000 in June for two separate pollution incidents, one which resulted in the deaths of critically endangered fish in Peterborough and the other seeing fish deaths after a fire in Essex.

An Anglian Water Spokesperson said: “We take our duty of care to the environment incredibly seriously and deeply regret any negative impact when things go wrong.

 "We work tirelessly to protect and enhance the environment, so it is particularly distressing when incidents like this occur. We are investing £800million to help protect and improve the environment and are determined to achieve our zero pollutions goal."