On 15 November 2012, Severn Trent Water Ltd pleaded guilty at Hereford Magistrates’ Court to polluting the River Leadon, a high quality salmon and trout watercourse, by discharging untreated sewage from their Ledbury sewage treatment works.
The company was fined £18,000 (£6,000 per offence) and ordered to pay £5,017 in costs, along with £15 victim surcharge. The charges were brought by the Environment Agency under Regulation 38(1)(a) and Regulation 12(1)(b) of the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010.
Yesterday’s prosecution relates to three incidents in August 2011, which resulted in untreated sewage entering the River Leadon, causing the death of fish.
Over the weekend of 6/7 August 2011, the Environment Agency responded to calls from the public reporting a number of dead fish on the River Leadon. On inspection of the area, a Fisheries Officer assessed the pollution as a category one (major) incident, due to the number of dead fish observed over an 8km stretch below the Severn Trent Ledbury outfall.
The Environment Agency took water samples which detected low oxygen levels. Severn Trent were contacted, but they were not aware of a problem at their sewage works.
After checking their records, Severn Trent confirmed that on 4 August 2011, the inlet penstock that controls the flow of sewage through the works for treatment, automatically closed, diverting all incoming sewage to the River Leadon.
There were a further two pollution incidents, on 7 and 10 August 2011 relating to the same issue with the penstock operating incorrectly and discharging untreated sewage to the river.
In the event of a failure at the works the penstock should have defaulted to the open position. However, this did not happen and there were no fail safe devices installed which would have prevented these incidents.
Speaking after the case, an Environment Agency Officer said: “This is the third prosecution for Severn Trent which has been heard in the past six weeks. Severn Trent are a water company that understands the risks and challenges of managing sewerage networks and sewage treatment systems, so multiple failures like this are wholly unacceptable. This prosecution demonstrates that we will take tough action against those who pollute our environment and watercourses”.
Previous prosecutions include pollution of Elmbridge Brook, Fairfield – heard at Redditch Magistrates Court on 4 October 2012, and the pollution of Ley Brook, Huntley – heard at Cheltenham Magistrates Court on 22 October 2012.