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  • by Karma Loveday

Thames Water fined £2m for catalogue of sewage spill errors

The Environment Agency issued a scathing report on 21 December detailing Thames Water’s failings during a 2015 sewage escape, as it reported the company had been fined £2m and ordered to pay costs of nearly £80,000 for the incident.

Judge Peter Ross, at Oxford Crown Court, ruled category 3 harm had been caused on 8-9 August 2015 after numerous failures in the management of a sewage pumping station led to sewage created by two villages emptying ultimately into the River Evenlode, a tributary of the River Thames. Nearly 150 bullhead fish were killed along a 50-metre stretch of water.

The Agency highlighted among other things that Thames ignored over 1,000 alarms as part of the incident; that the pumping station in question had failed five times in the year running up to the case; and that maintenance of the pumping station was inadequate and ineffective, including that Thames operated it with only a back-up system between August 2014 and March 2015.

Robert Davis, who led the investigation for the Environment Agency, said: “This incident was foreseeable and avoidable…We hope this prosecution sends a loud and clear message that the Environment Agency will not accept poor operation, management and maintenance of sewage pumping stations. Where we have evidence of offending and serious pollution incidents like here, we will take appropriate action to bring polluters to justice.”

Thames Water pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to two charges of breaching environmental law.

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