United Utilities fined £200,000 for repeat failures in disinfection

United Utilities has been fined £200,000 plus costs of £54,000 after pleading guilty to charges brought by the Drinking Water Inspectorate of supplying inadequately disinfected water from its Sweetloves water treatment works on two occasions in 2015.

Fines were £50,000 in respect of charges relating to the first event in April 2015 and £150,000 for the second event in July that year. The DWI said: “The striking similarity of the initial phase of the event in July to the event in April demonstrates that the company failed to take adequate steps and learn appropriate lessons from the April event.”

At the time the works supplied 80,000 people north and east of Bolton. There were no cases of ill health linked to the events but some 18,000 properties were left without water for most of a day following the July event and had to boil water for drinking or food preparation for a further day and a half.

The events were attributed to failures in pumps serving critical monitoring equipment, the absence of procedures to prevent the supply of water following failure in preliminary treatment and a failure by the firm to carry out its own procedures for implementing alarms at critical control points and responding to them.