GIANT private utility firm Thames Water have been given a bumper £2 million fine for a relatively small pollution that killed 146 bullheads.
The company has an annual turnover of over £2 billion and were given a hefty £2 million fine after the stream case came to court. TW were also ordered to pay Environment Agency costs of £80,000.
But Oxford Crown Court judge Peter Ross said that if the firm agreed to donate to three environmental charities the fine would be reduced by £200,000.
The fine is the third biggest given for a water pollution. It lists behind TW’s record £20.3 million fine two years ago for polluting various Thames tributaries and a £8 million fine to supermarket Tesco for polluting Lancashire’s River Irwell with 23,500 litres of petrol.
Stream polluter was ‘blithely unaware’
Britain’s biggest and wealthiest water admitted discharging untreated sewage from the Bruern Road Sewage Pumping Station at Milton-under-Wychwood in August 2015 that caused carnage along a 50-metre stretch of the Idbury Brook.
The court heard that ahead of the incident a series of alarms had been misinterpreted with the company ‘blithely unaware’ that anything was wrong with the plant.
This led to a ‘complete failure’ of the pumping station and sewage seeping out into the brook before local residents and the EA reported dead fish to TW and a clean-up operation was launched.
Judge Ross said: “A reckless failure by the organisation to put in place and ensure such systems as could reasonably be expected in all the circumstances to avoid commission of the offence.
“Had lessons really been learned and implemented from the events in relation to the two previous convictions this would not have happened.”
EA lead investigator Robert Davis said: “Thames Water didn’t recognise the increased risk to the environment, ignoring or failing to respond adequately to more than 1,000 alarms.”
TW sustainability director Richard Aylard said: “We take our role in protecting the environment extremely seriously and are really sorry for what happened here in 2015.
“We have made a series of improvements since this regrettable incident, including bringing in more people, more maintenance, more training and better systems.”
Former barbel record holder and environmental campaigner Ray Walton said: “Courts need to double the fine each time really to make it a deterrent or even better that the ‘fat cat’ directors are personally prosecuted and jailed and the fines taken from their personal assets.
“Only then will they stop doing it deliberately, which saves money on non-treatment which we already pay for in water and sewage bills upfront.
“The public should get ‘rebates’ every time they discharge raw sewage and the profit in doing that goes to shareholders.”
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