Thames Water responds to £20m wastewater pollution fine

Utility Thames Water has been fined an unprecedented £20.3 million in fines and costs for a series of significant pollution incidents on the River Thames...

Content Dam Ww Online Articles 2017 03 Thames Pollution Portrait

Content Dam Ww Online Articles 2017 03 Thames Pollution Portrait

LONDON, England – Thames Water Utilities Ltd (Thames Water) has been fined an unprecedented £20.3 million in fines and costs for a series of significant pollution incidents on the River Thames.

The prosecution saw six separate cases - which caused widespread, repeated, sustained and avoidable pollution at a number of sites from 2012 to 2014 - brought together in one hearing at Aylesbury Crown Court.

Regulator the Environment Agency (EA) said it is the “biggest freshwater pollution case” in its 20 year history.

The court heard how Thames Water’s repeated illegal discharges of sewage into the River Thames, and its tributaries, resulted in major environmental damage including visible sewage along 14 kilometres of the river, and the death of birds, fish and invertebrates.

Investigations carried out by Environment Agency officers revealed a catalogue of failures by Thames Water’s management.

This included repeated discharges of untreated or poorly treated raw sewage into rivers.

The Court heard how for weeks, untreated sewage, amounting to millions of litres per day, was diverted to the rivers and away from the treatment process, although the incoming sewage flow was well within the designed capacity of the treatment works.

In many instances less than half of the incoming sewage was sent for treatment.

Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency, said: "This case sends a clear signal to the industry that safeguarding the environment is not an optional extra, it is an essential part of how all companies must now operate.”

His Honour Judge Sheridan,condemned the “disgraceful conduct” of Thames Water Utilities Limited, which he said was “entirely foreseeable and preventable.”

It was “a very dark period in the history of Thames Water” who demonstrated “scant regard for the law, with dreadful results for people who live in the area,” he said.

Thames Water's chief executive Steve Robertson, appointed in September 2016, said: “We deeply regret each of these incidents at six of our sites during the period 2012-14. We asked for these incidents to be considered and sentenced together, because it was clear that our performance in this part of our region, at that time, was not up to the very high standards that we and our customers expect.

“Since then we’ve reviewed how we do things at all levels and made a number of key changes. These have included increasing the numbers of staff in key operational roles and investing heavily to improve reliability. As a result, our performance has significantly improved. We understand our huge responsibilities to the environment, have learned from these serious events, and continue to invest at the rate of around £20 million a week on continually improving our service to our customers and the environment.”

The facilities involved were five sewage treatment works in Aylesbury, Didcot, Henley, Little Marlow and Arborfield, and Littlemore sewage pumping station.

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