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United Utilites and a number of construction companies who work for them have admitted to allowing bleach to enter Bradshaw Brook, in Bolton.
In December 2013, hundreds of dead fish began appearing in the brook, floating in their masses and washing up by the dozen on the edges of the stream, which prompted worried local people to contact the Environment Agency, who dispatched investigators and set up an incident hotline to allow anyone spotting further dead fish to get in contact immediately. Tracing the contamination upstream, the Environment Agency operatives found the source to be Wayoh water treatment works, located at Turton, and operated by United Utilities.
The agents found that bleach (sodium hypochlorite) had been released into the stream around December 4th that year. This bleach is the same one used in household cleaning products, and in water purification – however, in higher concentrations it is very toxic.
At Bolton Crown Court, representatives of United Utilities pleaded guilty on the company’s behalf to charges of causing a water discharge activity not under and to the extent authorised by an environmental permit contrary to regulation 12(1)(b) and 38(1)(a) of the Environmental Permitting (England & Wales) Regulations 2010. In short, to releasing poison into a watercourse without permission and without telling anyone about it.
The construction conglomerate KMI Plus, which works closely with United Utilities, pleaded guilty to the same charges, since, at the time of the bleach release, KMI Plus was working on a £400 million project for United Utilities, to design and build several facilities across the North of England. Intended to upgrade the water treatment infrastructure employed by the utilities company, these projects were supposed to help the environment, not release bleach into it.
Once the pleas were noted, the court was adjourned until 13th June 2016, when a trail will occur to determine what level of responsibility each company must bear for the leak, and the degree of harm caused by the release. Once that has been decided, the sentences will be passed. Penalties for the release of chemicals into a waterway can be unlimited fines and up to five years in prison.
If you want to speak to a representative about this case or register a complaint, call United Utilities on our contact number.