British court fines Thames Water for sewage pollution
British water company Thames Water is fined by the British crown court with 4 million pounds for polluting a public park, woodland and the Hogsmill River. During a storm in 2016 untreated sewage escaped from sewers below London. The judge fining Thames Water called the pollution with 79 million litres of sludge ‘utterly disgusting’.
The staff of Thames Water was previously warned for an incident, but these warnings were either missed or ignored. The court ruling was published by the Environment Agency. In the winter of 2016 sewage treatment works at Surbiton couldn’t handle the amount of sewage produced by Storm Imogen. Instead of the sewage being treated, pumps failed, allowing raw effluent to back up along the sewer network, bursting out of a manhole.
Lack of prevention
It took 30 people a day for almost a month to clean-up sludge that was ankle-deep in places. According to Gary Waddup from the Environment Agency better management overall and on the night by Thames Water could have prevented this catastrophic incident. It wasn’t the first time sewage had escaped from manholes due to problems at the treatment works in Surbiton. Pollution as a result from problems at the site goes back to 2001.
The Environment Agency’s enforcement action over several years and the pressure it has put on water companies has led to 30 billion pounds of investment by the industry in water quality. This incident shows Thames Water and the industry have a lot more to do to protect the environment.
One of Thames Water’s own engineers described finding an avalanche of foul waste spread over Green Lane recreation ground. The sewage travelled with such force across the park and into the river, leaving thick sludge, toilet paper and wet wipes covering the riverbank, grass, shrubs and a wooded area.
Thames Water pleaded guilty to depositing sewage waste at the recreation ground in February 2016. The court also took into consideration breach of a permit regarding that incident, and discharging into the Hogsmill River in January and October 2018, and an incident in September 2019, when sewage sludge was released from Hogsmill sewage treatment works in error. This latest conviction brings the total amount of fines given to Thames Water since 2017 to £28.4 million for 10 cases of water pollution.
A third of Thames Water is owned by investment fund companies from the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, China and Australia. Water loss due to leakages by water companies across England and Wales is not new. In 2017 leakages increased to more than three billion litres every day.