The latest in the series of growing fines for water company pollution

Thames Water has been hit with a record fine of £20.3m after huge leaks of untreated sewage into the Thames and its tributaries and on to land, including the popular Thames path. The prolonged leaks led to serious impacts on residents, farmers and wildlife, killing birds and fish. The fine imposed was for numerous offences in 2013 and 2014 at sewage treatment works at Aylesbury, Didcot, Henley and Little Marlow, and a large sewage pumping station at Littlemore. The Environment Agency, which brought the prosecution, said the enormous volume of untreated sewage discharged was unprecedented – 1.4bn litres – as was the length of time over which the discharges occurred.

The sewage caused long-term pollution in the Thames and some tributaries, revolting riverside users and wiping out the season for a commercial cray fisherman. The Environment Agency said it was the biggest freshwater pollution case it had ever undertaken.

“I have to make the fine sufficiently large that [Thames Water] get the message,” said Judge Francis Sheridan, who delivered the sentence at Aylesbury crown court. Describing the breaches as “wicked”, he said: “One has to get the message across to the shareholders that the environment is to be treasured and protected, and not poisoned.”

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