NOTE. An earlier headline to this story had the penalty at £600m. This was a typographic error.
United Utilities has paid out nearly £600,000 in reparations following a pollution incident that was investigated in September 2016. It became the second major water firm in a week to secure an Environment Agency agreement on compensation payments – an enforcement undertaking – as an alternative to any other enforcement action.
A spill of an acidic solution of iron salts from United Utilities’ Rivington Water Treatment Works killed significant numbers of brown trout in the River Douglas at Horwich. The iron solution had been by-passing a faulty valve in the water treatment works, which had discharged into a drain and entered the river.
The Environment Agency accepted United Utilities’ offer which included a payment of £500,000 to the Douglas Catchment Partnership for pro bono support that will benefit the local environment. United Utilities also spent £88,498 on actions to prevent a recurrence of the incident, and £13,521 in Environment Agency costs.
Under and enforcement undertaking, polluters can make an offer to the Environment Agency to pay for or carry out environmental improvements as an alternative to court or other enforcement action. Enforcement Undertakings differ from fines in that the penalty is spent on protecting, restoring and improving the environment.
Land and Water Team Leader at the Environment Agency, Jennifer Hall, said: “Over the course of the past year the number of serious and significant pollution incidents reduced to their lowest levels since 2011.”