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Southern Water hit with £480K fine

Southern Water Services has been fined £480,000 having pleaded guilty to supplying water unfit for human consumption and to the use of a non-approved product during an event where a failed operation to cap and abandon a 24in pipe caused discoloured water with an unpleasant taste and odour to be supplied to the Dibden Purlieu and Blackfield areas of Southampton in October 2015.

The company appeared before Southampton Magistrates’ Court on Friday (August 25). Additional costs of £50,000 were agreed out of court.

Southern Water had pleaded guilty to the charges earlier last month. The charges were brought by the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI), under Section 70 of the Water Industry Act 1991 (as amended) and the Water Supply (Water Quality) Regulations 2000 (as amended).

Marcus Rink, chief inspector at the DWI, said: “This prosecution was brought because of deficiencies in the company’s planning of changes to its distribution system that, in the view of District Judge Anthony Callaway, was reckless in its execution and aggravated by time pressures. This was a serious deviation from good practice, and without regard to the impact on consumers in the Southampton area, and warranted intervention by the Inspectorate.”

Southern Water has apologised to residents for the incident. In a statement following Friday’s hearing, Dr Alison Hoyle, director of compliance and asset resilience, said: "We sincerely apologise for and deeply regret that in October 2015 customers in the Rownhams area of Southampton experienced discoloured water and disruption to supply after a burst main at one of our sites.

“Although we received no complaints of illness following the event, we recognise that the standard of water that we supplied to our customers was not acceptable and for that we apologise unreservedly. We notified the Drinking Water Inspectorate of the event and worked with Public Health England throughout. The UK has very stringent recommended levels for an acceptable amount of water discoloration which, as a result of the incident, we exceeded, and for which we are sincerely sorry.”

Hoyle said a new company structure had been put in place in March this year including a Compliance and Asset Resilience Directorate, where it focuses on improving performance, compliance culture and risk assessments while also making technical improvements.

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