Severn Trent fined £2m for ‘reckless’ raw sewage pollution

Credit: Severn Trent

Severn Trent Water has been ordered to pay a fine of more than £2m for allowing huge amounts of raw sewage to discharge into the River Trent.

Cannock magistrates court heard on Monday that 470 million litres of raw sewage was discharged from the Strongford wastewater treatment works near Stoke-on-Trent between November 2019 and February 2020.

260 million litres of this sewage was discharged illegally.

District judge Kevin Grego ruled that there was a reckless failure by the company to have in place and implement a proper system of contingency planning.

The water company had previously pleaded guilty to two charges of illegally discharging raw sewage. It was fined £1,072,000 and £1m plus costs of £16,476.67 and a victim’s surcharge of £181.

Two of the three screw pumps had failed at Strongford, meaning sewage amounting to the size of ten Olympic swimming pools entered the storm overflow and into the River Trent.

The Environmental Agency said that it was “pure good luck” that levels in the river were high due to Storm Ciara and as a result the impact was reduced. A similar pollution incident at a downstream pumping station had previously led to a major fish kill.

Robbie Moore, the Minister for Water and Rural Growth, said: “It is absolutely right that those who damage our natural environment pay for their actions.

“No-one should profit from illegal behaviour and that’s why last week we announced a crackdown on bonuses for water company bosses.

“Severn Trent’s fine will be put into our Water Restoration Fund, which will channel money directly back into projects that improve water quality. And through our Plan for Water we are delivering more investment, stronger regulation and tougher enforcement – ensuring those who pollute our waters are held to account.”

Adam Shipp, a Senior Environment Officer at the Environment Agency and who led the investigation, said: “Severn Trent were fortunate that this incident did not cause a catastrophic pollution in the Trent as the river already had high flows when the discharge occurred.

“Our investigation showed that their contingency plans were woefully inadequate with a major pump being out of action for 52 days prior to the incident.

“Even though Severn Trent knew Storm Clara and Storm Dennis were about to arrive they did not think to proactively source alternative pumps and get them to site”.

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