Water company Anglian Water and civils contractor Danaher and Walsh received fines totalling £60,000 after raw sewage leaked into a river, killing more than 2,400 fish.
On 27 December 2018, a sewer owned by Anglian Water collapsed in Stanground, Peterborough.
The water company employed Danaher and Walsh to fix the problem temporarily. Danaher and Walsh set up an over-pumping system to pump the sewage back into the drainage system.
However it became blocked with unflushable “rag” items, like baby wipes. A few days later it failed, leading to sewage ending up in Stanground Lode.
Neither company reported the incident to the Environment Agency, but a concerned member of the public called the agency’s incident hotline.
Environment Agency investigators found pollution in the watercourse for 1.6 kilometres and said at least 2,413 fish died.
Untreated sewage could have been discharging into the river for up to 10 hours.
Levels of ammonia downstream from the discharge were 200 times higher than average water quality standards.
In mitigation, Danaher and Walsh said it wouldn’t have been possible to predict how much rag would be flushed in this time. It said that it had never seen a blockage like that in 30 years of operating.
“Low level of culpability”
Both companies appeared at Peterborough Magistrates’ Court, pleading guilty.
The judge charged them with causing an illegal sewage discharge between 5 January and 8 January 2019, which polluted Stanground Lode contrary to environmental regulations.
The judge deemed there was a low level of culpability from both defendants.
Anglian Water received a fine of £50,000 and had to pay £24,387.58 in costs. Danaher and Walsh received a fine of £10,000 and had to pay £5,000 in costs.
Yvonne Daly, an environment manager at the Environment Agency in Cambridgeshire, said: “We are disappointed with the fine issued in this case and would like to see higher penalties to really deter polluters from future offences.
“Both companies in this case failed in their environmental duties, leaving to a devastating impact on the local biodiversity. Moreover, they failed to notify the Environment Agency when something had gone wrong.”
Story first appeared in Construction Enquirer.