South West Water Fined £150,000 For Sewage Leak

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South West Water has been fined a total sum of £153,600 for allowing potentially harmful and contaminable sewage to be leaked into the Par River, Cornwall.

The incident in question was claimed to have taken place in 2013, when poorly treated sewage was released into the river on three separate occasions from the water company’s sewage treatment works in Cornwall.

The sewage treatment works, located at Luxulyan at St Austell, was later found to not be operating correctly, leading to the leak of poorly treated and potentially dangerous waste into the surrounding environment.

Phil Christie from the Environment Agency said:

The site wasn’t being maintained properly. South West Water took an unreasonably long time to repair a broken aerator, and this meant the works were running at a significantly reduced efficiency

He also added that the company was slow to spot problems and to respond with urgency when the issue was eventually identified. Reports said it took South West Water from March until September to finally fix the broken aerator.

During this time, nearly one tonne of poorly treated sewage waste was released into the Pay River every minute, causing a thick growth of sewage fungus over 175 metres of the riverbed. The damage was present for as far as a quarter of a mile downstream of Luxulyan.

It was only when an Environment Agency officer visited the plant in July that it was recognised there was a serious problem. It was discovered that the broken aerator in question had been out of service since March and had not been repaired or replaced. While things could continue to still run efficiently without it, a second aerator failure in July made it impossible for the works to work effectively.

Until then, South West Water had been continuing to dispel the toxins, which following later investigation were found to have a biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) of 66.4mg – far above the site’s permitted limit of 56mg per litre. Under normal conditions, it is said that the waste should not have had a BOD above 20mg per litre.

At a sentencing hearing earlier this month at Truro Crown Court, South West Water was fined £150,000 for the three separate sewage leaks under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010. This was for failing to return its sewage works to normal functioning state as quickly as possible; exceeding the BOD discharge limit and failing to inform the appropriate authorities of any potential risks and failures.

The utility company was also ordered to pay £3,600 in additional court costs.

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