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MIL-OSI United Kingdom: Welsh Water fined £90,000 for polluting River Wye near Hereford

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Source: United Kingdom – Executive Government & Departments

Environment Agency prosecutes after routine sampling results. Court told how water company broke permitted levels 3 times in 10 months.

The Environment Agency has successfully prosecuted Welsh Water Ltd for breaking conditions of an environmental permit at a sewage treatment works near Hereford between August 2020 and June 2021.

At Worcester crown court on Friday 7 June, Welsh Water entered a guilty plea and were fined £90,000 for exceeding permitted levels of sewage effluent into the River Wye from the Kingstone and Madley sewage treatment works. The company were also ordered to pay costs of £14,085.05 and a £190 surcharge.

The court was told that officers from the Environment Agency were alerted to an issue following routine sampling results in July 2021.

The environmental permit states that during monthly sampling visits, Welsh Water must not discharge effluent containing more than 7 milligrams per litre of biochemical oxygen demand on more than 2 occasions in a 12-month period.

From 6 August 2020 to 19 June 2021, the sampling system showed that Welsh Water allowed levels to exceed the permitted levels on 3 occasions.

On 8 August 2020, the levels were recorded at 13 milligrams per litre; on 19 May 2021, levels were recorded at 74 milligrams per litre; and 19 June 2021 levels, were recorded at 41 milligrams per litre.

The court was told that such levels indicated that the treatment works was performing very poorly and that it was extremely unusual to have this many breaches in a 12-month period.

A report concluded that this showed “either poor operational management, inadequate asset provision or a mixture of both.”

Welsh Water, in mitigation, said on the first 2 occasions, they could not identify a “root cause” for the permit breaches.  On the third occasion, the company said the breach had occurred during a “significant storm.”

Adam Shipp, a senior environment officer at the Environment Agency and who led the investigation, said: 

Incidents like this are preventable and are completely unacceptable. Water companies are aware that their activities have the potential for serious environmental impacts, and they know that we will take action when they cause pollution.

The charge:

Welsh Water, between 5 August 2020 and June 20 2021, at the Kingstone and Madley sewage treatment works, in Herefordshire, failed to comply with, or contravened, an environmental permit condition, namely condition 8 (a) (i) of environmental permit AH1001901 (as modified from March 31 2015).

By exceeding the permitted level of 7 milligrams per litre of biochemical oxygen demand within the discharge from the said works to the Coldstone Brook on 3 occasions within the said period.

Published 11 June 2024

MIL OSI United Kingdom