This latest Thames water major pollution incident is a timely reminder for the Environmental Audit Committee and their work on water quality in rivers (watch the evidence) of the growing risks of major storms driving significant pollution events. Thames Water has depressing recent record of sewage pollution incidents.

Thames Water fined £4 million after catastrophic sewage blunder

Favourite recreation spot and chalk stream hit by 79 million litres of sludge. Thames Water has been fined £4 million after untreated sewage escaped from sewers below London into a park and a river.

A court heard dozens of high-priority alarms would have told staff about the incident, but were either missed or ignored, leading to pollution of a popular park, woodland and the Hogsmill River, in New Malden.

The sewage treatment works at Surbiton couldn’t handle the amount of sewage produced by Storm Imogen in the winter of 2016.

Sitting at Aylesbury crown court on 26 May, Judge Francis Sheridan noted Thames Water’s new commitment to improving compliance, but said that must be the norm, issuing a warning shot they will be held to this commitment in future cases.

The court was told approximately 79 million litres of sludge escaped across an area of about 6,500 square metres. It took 30 people a day for almost a month to clean-up sludge that was ankle-deep in places.

Gary Waddup, a land and water officer for the Environment Agency in south London, said:

Like similar incidents in the past few years for which they have been prosecuted, 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 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. Click here to read more


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