Anglian Water fined £500,000 after raw sewage kills thousands of fish

Anglian Water has been handed a penalty of more than £500,000 after pleading guilty to discharging raw sewage into a Northamptonshire river for 23 hours in an event that killed around 5,000 fish.

Anglian Water fined £500,000 after raw sewage kills thousands of fish.

According to the Environment Agency, in May 2017 about six million litres of raw sewage was discharged by Anglian Water into 12 kilometres of the Great Ouse at Brackley.

The water company said that the spillage occurred after electrical faults caused the pumps to stop, and that the reason that the spill occurred for so long was that the early warning alarm system failed.

The sewage discharge killed around 5,000 fish, including brown trout, chub and pike, as well as smaller species such as bullhead, dace, stone loach, minnow, gudgeon and brook lampreys, according to the Environment Agency.

Anglian Water pleaded guilty to a breach of permit and on 12 January 2023 was ordered to pay a fine of £510,000, costs of £50,000 and a victim surcharge of £170 at Peterborough Magistrates’ Court.

The charge was that it failed to act “without undue delay in remedying the failure” or breakdown at the site, contrary to Regulation 38(2) of the Environmental Permitting (England & Wales) Regulations 2016.

Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency, said: “We welcome this sentence. Serious pollution is a serious crime.

“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.”

This is the sixth fine Anglian Water has been given for serious pollution events since January 2022, according to the ENDS Report’s Fines Monitor database of environmental financial penalties.

The EA is currently being investigated by green watchdog the Office for Environmental Protection for its role in the regulation of combined sewer overflows in England, along with that of DEFRA and Ofwat. 

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, and find it deeply distressing when incidents like this occur.

“We know there’s no room for complacency, and we’re absolutely determined to improve further and progress towards achieving our zero pollutions goal.”