Water company fined after Fairfield brook polluted

First published in News

THE pollution of a Bromsgrove brook has led to a water company being fined £25,000.

Severn Trent Water pleaded guilty at Redditch Magistrates’ Court, on Thursday, (October 4), to the discharge of sewage into the Elmbridge Brook at Fairfield, without an environmental permit.

In February 2011, a report was made to the Environment Agency about a dark black liquid in the brook, suggesting a sewer was overflowing.

Discharges of sewage to watercourses are controlled by environmental permits - which require sewage to be treated to certain standards limiting their polluting effect.

But the sewer system at Fairfield contained untreated leachate - very contaminated water - from a nearby landfill site.

The landfill had a consent with the firm to discharge their leachate to the sewer system.

Investigating officers from the agency discovered an overflowing sewer manhole, and the blockage had been caused by an eight feet tree root that had grown in through the sidewall.

Response crews from the company arrived on site shortly afterwards, and took samples.

The blockage was cleared and the sewer returned to normal operation on February 12.

Environment Agency ecological tests found dead invertebrates in the watercourse downstream of the pollution source, and chemical tests also showed very high levels of ammoniacal nitrogen up to four kilometres downstream.

Ammoniacal nitrogen is potentially toxic to aquatic life.

The company was fined £25,000, and ordered to pay £5262.26 in costs, along with a £15 victim surcharge.

Severn Trent Water said swift action was taken to remedy the problem, and to minimise the environmental impact.

Representatives from the firm also confirmed inspections of the sewer system in the area would be carried out on a six monthly basis, and it had also invested heavily in a system to prevent incidents occurring in future.

Speaking after the case, an Environment Agency officer 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.”

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