Southern fined £110,000 for drinking water offences

Southern Water has been fined £65,000 with costs of more than £44,600 for drinking water offences described as "flagrant disregard for regulatory duties," by the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI).

The company pleaded guilty to charges, brought of supplying water unfit for human consumption from its Cooks Castle service reservoir on the Isle of Wight between 31 January and 12 February 2013.

The DWI investigation which began in 2016 revealed a then “undisclosed and significant water incident from 2013.” Chief Inspector of Drinking Water, Marcus Rink, said “Flagrant disregard for regulatory duties and consumer protection will always result in action by the inspectorate in the public interest”. Southern said, “We apologise unreservedly for the incident that affected water for customers and consumers in the Ventnor and surrounding area in 2013. We fully accept the court's judgement.”

The inspectorate said at that the time of the offence, Southern had supplied water that was “discoloured and highly turbid,” to some 18,000 consumers who were served by the reservoir.

Acknowledging a raft of changes made by Southern to improve its water quality performance the judge said in his summing-up: “It is clear this is a very different company now."

The event occurred following exploratory drilling to check ground conditions around the reservoir. An outlet main was ruptured by the drilling rig on 23 January 2013 allowing soil and debris to enter the network. The DWI said “deficiencies in Southern Waters investigation into, and handling of the event that meant the location of the leak was not initially identified until 1 March 2013. “