£2.65 Million Fine for Anglian Water After Sewage Discharge
The Environment Agency has successfully brought a prosecution against Anglian Water following a series of failures on the part of the company to manage and monitor effluent at its Jaywick Water recycling Centre in Essex, with untreated sewage discharges into the North Sea leading to a fine of £2.65 million.
These unsanctioned discharges took place because the water supplier decommissioned some equipment that meant untreated sewage was able to be released into coastal waters.
Additionally, the company didn’t take action in the face of available data that would have brought the problem to its attention and there was no alarm system in place that would have alerted the company as to how often the discharges were occurring.
The £2.65 million fine is the largest ever imposed for environmental offences in the region, the result of an investigation that found discharges took place over a month between June and July 2018… totalling 7,500,000 litres – or equivalent of over three Olympic-sized swimming pools.
The court heard how the water supplier could have taken more steps to prevent the discharges from taking place. For example, data was readily available to indicate that storm flows were occurring in dry weather and this should have led the company to investigate, before Environment Agency officials spotted the issue on a routine inspection.
Jeremy Hay, senior environment officer at the Environment Agency, commented on the case, saying: “This prosecution highlights the volume of sewage being discharged into our waters is unacceptable and that the Environment Agency is taking action to make sure polluters are held to account.
“We welcome the sentence, which sends out the message that we will not hesitate to prosecute companies which endanger communities and disregard the environment and the law.
“Polluters should always be held to account, and, as much as our resources allow, we will always investigate significant pollution incidents and bring those responsible before the courts.”
Since the 2018 incident, Anglian Water has implemented various sanctions to address issues at this particular site, including ensuring equipment is in good working order, increasing the storm flow separation weir height and following a regular cleaning regime.
Although water firms are permitted to discharge untreated sewage into watercourses in some specific circumstances (such as during intense and heavy rainfall), last year it was found that discharges have been taking place onto beaches and in rivers even during dry weather.
A Surfers Against Sewage report claimed that these dry spills are now happening routinely, with 146 instances detected over the course of 12 months, with 95 of these taking place in locations where water quality is classified as excellent.
The worst offender was found to be Southern Water, responsible for four times as many cases as South West Water, the next worst offender in the rundown.
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