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  • by Trevor Loveday

Southern Water fined £330,000 for 20-hour sewage spill

Southern Water has been fined £330,000 after wrongly programmed equipment at one of its pumping stations close to the South Downs caused the release of raw sewage into a stream for what the company admitted could have been nearly 20 hours, killing some 2,000 fish.

At West Hampshire magistrates’ court, a district judge heard how, in July 2019, a pump at Little Bull pumping station close to Southampton had failed after relay equipment had been wrongly programmed. When a second pump failed to start, “sewage and other hazardous substances” were diverted up through two manholes, across fields and into Shawford Lake Stream. The court heard also how an alarm on the failed pump went off just after 7am, but Southern Water had failed to act on it.

Environment Agency environment manager, Dawn Theaker, said: “Yet again, we have a water company failing to properly respond to alarms when things go wrong at facilities they operate, allowing sewage to flow uncontrolled into fields and a stream. The court agreed with our case that Southern Water was negligent.”

Southern Water pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to one breach of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 regarding the pollution and operation of Little Bull pumping station on or around 21 July 2019.

In addition to the £330,000 fine, the judge ordered Southern Water to pay the Environment Agency’s costs of £18,764 and a victim surcharge of £181.

• Southern Water has pleaded not guilty to four criminal charges of repeat pollution of the river Test in Hampshire being brought against them by activist group, Fish Legal, in a private prosecution. The water company stands accused of failing to prevent pollution discharging into the river from one of its outfalls, which drains the surface water network from Nursling Industrial Estate. The River Test is a rare chalkstream habitat – one of only around 200 such rivers in the world.  It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest supporting Atlantic salmon, trout, otters, water voles, brook lampreys and bullheads but less than 18% of it is in “favourable” condition. The water company will face trial at a date towards the end of the year.


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