SEVERN Trent Water Limited has been fined £1.5 million for sewage discharges from four treatment works in Worcestershire including Bromsgrove and Redditch.

The incidents happened between February and August 2018.

The court heard how the company failed to respond to alarms warning of a blockage, failed to adequately manage sewage sludge, and failed to adequately manage a situation when a piece of equipment failed.

This resulted in sewage being discharged into several watercourses in Worcestershire.

Prosecuting for the Environment Agency, Counsel Mr James Puzey told the court that in March 2018 at the company’s sewage treatment works in Bromsgrove and Stoke Prior, problems with the sewage treatment process led to discharges into the Sugar Brook and Hen Brook.

This exceeded the permitted levels of BOD (Biological Oxygen Demand).

Severn Trent Water also had problems at its Priest Bridge works near Redditch in July and August 2018, when a piece of equipment designed to remove fibrous material from incoming sewage at the start of the process failed.

The company did not adequately manage the situation, which resulted in discharges from the site in breach of limits set for Ammoniacal Nitrogen over two days in early August 2018.

A similar incident had occurred in 2011.

In February 2018, Severn Trent Water also failed to respond promptly to alarms at its sewage treatment works at Blackminster, near Evesham.

In passing sentence, District Judge Strongman said in respect of the Bromsgrove and Stoke Prior incident: “Bad weather played a part but more should have been done to cope with the problems by way of spare capacity.”

In respect of the Priest Bridge incident, District Judge Strongman said: “There was a serious problem developing”, and that Severn Trent Water were, “in no great hurry to carry out maintenance.”

Severn Trent Water’s previous convictions were an aggravating feature of the prosecution.

A fine of £1 million was imposed for the offence at Blackminster and £500,000 for the offence at Priest Bridge.

No separate penalty was imposed for breaches at Bromsgrove & Stoke Prior.

Since these incidents the company has advised the Environment Agency that it has changed its management structure and provided better technical support.

Severn Trent Water Ltd have also stated that it plans to rebuild its works at Blackminster, and to close the works at Stoke Prior towards the end of the decade.

The company has also invested at the Bromsgrove works to improve treatment efficiency.

David Throup, environment manager for the Environment Agency in Worcestershire, said: “Incidents like this are preventable and are completely unacceptable, particularly at a time when the need to protect the water environment for wildlife and people has never been greater and when public consciousness on environmental matters is so high.

“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.

“We’d urge anyone that sees suspected water pollution to report it to us immediately on our Incident Hotline on 0800 80 70 60.”

Sentencing of the case brought by the Environment Agency, happened at Kidderminster Magistrates’ Court on December 7.

Severn Trent was also ordered to pay prosecution costs of £58, 365.

The company pleaded guilty to allegations at an earlier court hearing in August.