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 Severn Trent Water fined over pollution to Elmbridge Brook

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David Harvey


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PostSubject: Severn Trent Water fined over pollution to Elmbridge Brook   Fri Oct 05, 2012 5:03 pm

On 4 October 2012, Severn Trent Water Ltd pleaded guilty at Redditch Magistrates’ Court to discharge of sewage into the Elmbridge Brook at Fairfield, near Bromsgrove, without an environmental permit.

The company was fined £25,000, and ordered to pay £5262.26 in costs, along with a £15 victim surcharge. The charge was brought by the Environment Agency under Regulation 38(1)(a) and Regulation 12(1) of the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010.

During February 2011, a report was made to the Environment Agency about a dark black liquid in the Elmbridge Brook below Fairfield. The report suggested that a sewer was overflowing. Discharges of sewage to watercourses are controlled by Environmental Permits which require the sewage to be treated to certain standards to limit the polluting effect.

The sewer system in question contained untreated ‘leachate’ from a nearby landfill site. Leachate is very contaminated water that percolates through landfill wastes, and must be disposed of correctly. The landfill had a consent with Severn Trent Water Ltd to discharge their leachate to the sewer system.
Environment Agency Officers attended site and discovered an overflowing sewer manhole. The blockage had been caused by a large tree root of about 8 feet in length that had grown in through the sidewall. Severn Trent Water Ltd response crews arrived on site shortly afterwards, and took samples. The blockage was cleared and the sewer returned to normal operation on 12 February.

Environment Agency ecological tests found dead invertebrates in the watercourse 800 metres downstream of the source of the pollution. Chemical tests also showed very high levels of ammoniacal nitrogen up to 4 kilometres downstream, which is potentially toxic to aquatic life.

On 15 July 2011, a Severn Trent Water Ltd representative attended an interview under caution. A statement was read out which said that they had taken swift action to remedy the problem, and to minimise the environmental impact. They also confirmed that inspections of the sewer system in the area would now be carried out on a 6 monthly basis.

Speaking after the case, an Environment Agency Officer in charge of the investigation said: “We take cases of pollution to watercourses seriously due to the environmental damage that can be caused. In this case, Severn Trent Water fell short of their responsibilities to maintain the sewer which led to the blockage, and so we did not hesitate to prosecute.”

In mitigation, the court was told that Severn Trent Water had shown full co-operation, and taken swift and effective remedial action. They had also invested heavily in a system to prevent such incidents occurring in future.

On or before 11 February 2011, Severn Trent Water Limited caused a discharge of polluting matter, namely sewage effluent, into an inland freshwater, namely the Elmbridge Brook at Fairfield, near Bromsgrove, without such water discharge activity being authorised by an environmental permit, contrary to Regulation 38(1)(a) and Regulation 12(1) of the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010.
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