Anglian Water has been fined £50,000 after sewage contaminated a brook through an emergency overflow pipe killing more than 1,500 fish.
All 3 pumps at Ingrave Pumping Station, near Brentwood, Essex had failed in the early hours of Sunday 10 April 2011 and sewage polluted more than 4 kilometers of the Haverings Grove Brook.
A variety of fish species died including bullhead, stoneloach, minnow, stickleback, chub, dace and gudgeon. Many of these species were spawning at the time, so it is likely that the incident had a significant impact on reproduction.
The company was also ordered to pay a contribution towards Environment Agency costs of £44,736 and a victim surcharge of £15.
The Environment Agency brought the prosecution against Anglian Water, who entered late guilty pleas to breaching 2 conditions of their environmental permit at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court. The Magistrates committed Anglian Water to the Crown Court at Chelmsford where Anglian Water was sentenced yesterday (Thursday 19 June 2014).
The permit authorises Anglian Water to discharge sewage to the brook via the emergency overflow pipe in the event of emergency. However, the permit also contains telemetry conditions which apply in the event of an emergency overflow, 2 of these conditions were not complied with.
Mr Mark Watson, prosecuting for the Environment Agency, said: “There was a pattern of failure to respond appropriately to alarms and telemetry data in the run up to 10 April 2011.”
At the time of the incident, there were 3 pumps at Ingrave Pumping Station. One a day stopped working over 3 days but no alarms were set off. At one point this left the pumping station with no operational pumps for 12 hours.
Mr Watson said: “It is clear that at some point after midnight, in the early hours of 10 April 2011, a discharge of crude sewage from the emergency overflow commenced. However, no emergency overflow alarm was ever generated or received”.
Ms Sarah Le Fevre, Defence Counsel, said Anglian Water deeply regretted the incident and took some comfort from the scale of the company’s operation with their telemetry system representing one of the largest in Western Europe.
At the time of the incident, they were not aware that the wet well alarm was not designed to activate if the pump station was running on the back-up system. Various remedial and precautionary actions have been taken since the incident.
Speaking after the case, Environment Agency officer Peter Cooke said: “This pollution was reported to us by a member of the local community who found the brook grossly polluted with sewage.
“It had a catastrophic impact on fish and was distressing for local residents who value the brook for its diverse wildlife. After the incident Environment Agency officers were faced with the unpleasant task of removing over 1500 dead fish from the brook, including a significant number of bullhead, a Biodiversity Action Plan species and important food fish for kingfishers and herons.’’
- On or about 10 April 2011, at Ingrave Pumping Station, Middle Road, Ingrave, Essex, you being the holder of Environmental Permit number ASENF/1109B, failed to comply with Condition 2.8.2 of the said Permit in that you failed to provide and maintain a 24 hour response telemetry alarm system to give notification in the event of operation of the emergency overflow.
Contrary to Regulation 38(2) of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010. Fined £25,000.
- On or about 10 April 2011, at Ingrave Pumping Station, Middle Road, Ingrave, Essex, you being the holder of Environmental Permit number ASENF/1109B, failed to comply with Condition 2.8.1(b) of the said Permit in that you failed to take all reasonable remedial measures to return the pumping station to normal operation as soon as practicable after receipt of warning of failure or breakdown of the pumping station.
Contrary to Regulation 38(2) of Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010. Fined £25,000.
Published: 20 June 2014
From: Environment Agency