Water company fined £150k for killing thousands of fish

PUBLISHED: 13:35 30 October 2008 | UPDATED: 10:35 04 May 2010

ANGLIAN Water has been fined £150,000 for allowing ammonia from its sewage works to flow directly into Soham Lode. At Ipswich Crown Court on Tuesday, the water company, which recorded a profit of more than £300million last year, was handed the fine for k

ANGLIAN Water has been fined £150,000 for allowing ammonia from its sewage works to flow directly into Soham Lode.

At Ipswich Crown Court on Tuesday, the water company, which recorded a profit of more than £300million last year, was handed the fine for killing 1,200 fish in the Soham waterway, in July 2006, and for allowing more than twice the recommended levels of ammonia to enter the Lode earlier that year, from its sewage works at Newmarket - and while the works was unattended.

The water company asked for another offence, of discharging raw sewage straight into the Newmarket public drain, in April this year. They previously pleaded guilty to all offences at Mildenhall Magistrates' Court, but the magistrates deemed the offences so serious they were beyond their sentencing powers and sent the company to Crown Court.

Anglian Water was also ordered to pay £28,973 in costs to the Environment Agency, who brought the case against them.

Since the 1980s, the company, which has a near monopoly on water treatment in East Anglia, has been fined more than 90 times for similar offences involving the discharge of raw sewage into public drains.

After the hearing, Environment Crime Team leader Phil Henderson said: "What is most concerning is that this was not a one-off, unforeseen failure at a sewage works, rather it was a series of three separate incidents, all foreseeable, during 2006. Each of these incidents was characterised by a significant failing on the part of Anglian Water.

"The first incident involved the manager removing and destroying data, then coercing employees to falsify records to hide the fact that the works were not operating within legal limits. The subsequent two events, one of which caused a major fish kill on the Soham Lode, were due to a large extent to Anglian Water's failure to respond appropriately to automated alarms at Newmarket sewage treatment works.

"We are pleased that the court viewed these offences as serious and has fined the company accordingly.

"The public should be assured that we will investigate such offences thoroughly to ensure that water companies comply with legislation put in place to protect our environment. We now look to Anglian Water to demonstrate that they have learnt from these incidents and ensure that there is no repetition in future."

A spokesperson for Anglian Water said: "Anglian Water has apologised for the pollution incident at Newmarket STW.

Protecting and enhancing the environment in which it operates is a key priority for Anglian Water, and any event which causes damage or potential damage to the environment is taken extremely seriously.

Lessons have already been learned from these three separate incidents at the Newmarket sewage treatment works: an ammonia alarm has been installed at the works, and procedures have been tightened up in the company's operational management centre to ensure telemetry alarms are responded to appropriately.

Anglian Water co-operated fully with the Environment Agency to minimise any impact at the time of the incidents, which all occurred in 2006, and has continued to offer co-operation throughout the legal process. The company pleaded guilty to all three incidents.

This fine will not be passed onto customers in any way; it will be paid from company profits.

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