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  • by Trevor Loveday

Anglian Water hit with £2.65m fine after missing the alarm call

Anglian Water has been fined £2.65m for allowing untreated sewage to overflowing to the North Sea following a prosecution brought by the Environment Agency. The agency said the fine was the largest one ever imposed for environmental offences in the region.

Anglian Water admitted to having decommissioned a piece of equipment, which led to the conditions for untreated sewage to be released into the North Sea. The company was found to have failed to act on available data that would have alerted it to the issue.

The court heard there was was also no alarm system to inform the water company of how often the discharges were occurring but a simple “walkover” inspection would have alerted Anglian Water to the issues. Sentencing Anglian Water, said “more could and should have been done” to prevent this pollution.

The court also heard that the Environment Agency staff simply “heard, looked and saw what Anglian Water operatives, who were present on site every day, should have seen.” And that data was available to indicate storm flows were occurring in dry weather which should have prompted an investigation by Anglian Water.

Anglian Water was ordered to pay prosecution costs of £16,520.09 and a victim surcharge of £170 at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court, resulting in a total financial penalty of £2,666,690.

Since 2010, water companies have been responsible for self-monitoring water recycling sites with the Environment Agency guidance to inspect sites every eight years.

The judge told the court the fact that “Anglian Water finds itself in court so frequently” must be reflected in the level of the fine. He said there was “a clear pattern of the company not responding adequately” to previous penalties.

The Environment Agency said the number of serious water pollution incidents caused by water and sewerage companies has been reduced dramatically, from over 500 in the early 1990s down to just 62 in 2021.

The bathing waters around our coasts are in the best state they have been for decades. In 2022, 72% of beaches and inland waters met the ‘Excellent’ standard, the highest since new stringent standards were introduced in 2015.

The Environment Agency has reported event duration monitoring data returned from 13,323 storm overflows during 2022 as showing the duration and frequency of sewage spills are now monitored at 91% of storm overflows across the country.

It has pointed out improvements in storm overflow monitoring and operation including:

  • a 19% reduction in the number of sewage spills to 301,091 spills in 2022 (largely due to last year’s below average rainfall;

  • the average number of spills per storm overflow was 23, compared to 29 in 2021;

  • 3% of storm overflows spilled more than 100 times, compared to 5% in 2021; and

  • 18% of storm overflows did not spill at all, compared to 13% in 2021.


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