Water company fined £90m for sewage pollution
Southern Water have been fined £90 million for illegally dumping raw sewage into the sea across the south coast.
According to Carve, the company wilfully discharged untreated sewage 7,000 times between 2010- 2015, equating to 61,700 hours of pollution impacting sensitive coastal habitats and popular recreational areas.
Southern Water pleaded guilty to 51 counts of knowingly discharging sewage into the sea.
In the investigation undertaken by the Environment Agency (EA), it was revealed in court this week that Southern Water locked evidence in cupboards and removed key documents from investigators in an attempt to undermine investigations.
Attempts were also made to prevent EA staff from entering treatment facilities in a move to hide illegal activities.
Treatment works were being run at less than half their capacity with treatment tanks kept full allowing them to turn septic, releasing sewage and rain water straight into the sea.
According to Carve, these discharges were highly likely to have been the reason for contaminated shellfish having been discovered along the south coast which risked causing norovirus to consumers.
The evidence gathered during the investigation showed that this was not the work of a few rogue employees but points towards an institutionalised culture of deceit with instructions and co-ordination coming from the very top of the Southern Water chain of command, including senior lawyers.
“It’s absolutely scandalous that Southern Water dumped raw sewage in the sea for so long, hiding their tracks as they went so they could increase their profits,” says Hugo Tagholm, CEO of Surfers Against Sewage.
“This shocking, criminal capitalism is one of the worst cases of companies wilfully putting profits before the health of people or planet. Worse still is that water companies, including Southern Water, seem to continue dumping raw sewage into fragile, precious and finite blue habitats, with over 400,000 separate raw sewage pollution events pinned to their collective reputation in 2020 alone.
“They are simply not doing a good enough job. The water industry needs to clean up its act and be held to account.”
This isn’t the first time that Southern Water have been caught out. In 2019, it was ordered to pay a penalty of £126m back to customers by the price regulator Ofwat for deliberately misreporting its performance, serious failures at sewage treatment sites, and for failing to invest in equipment resulting in discharges of waste water into the environment.
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