Wessex Water's civil sanction for polluting River Trym
An Enforcement Undertaking (EU) from Wessex Water Services has been accepted by the Environment Agency (EA). It is the first case where a civil sanction has been used for an offence committed by a water company.
The offer includes actions for Wessex Water to improve its operations and infrastructure, as well as financial contributions totalling £25,500 to environmental organisations and those affected by the offending.
The undertaking follows a major pollution incident in Bristol on July 11, 2013, when a blockage in a main sewer resulted in raw sewage being discharged into the River Trym. The volume of sewage had a large impact ─ 112 eels, 200 sticklebacks and 1,000 bullheads were found dead as a result of the pollution, and an estimated 90% of river invertebrates were also killed.
Officers from the local EA Environment Management team informed Wessex Water, who took steps to stop the polluting discharge and prevent further loss of aquatic life.
A CCTV survey of the sewer carried out by Wessex Water found that the cause of the blockage was a build-up of fat and grease, which had found its way into the system.
In any EU, the offender must offer to restore / remediate the harm caused by the offence, or where that is not possible, make a financial contribution to a recognised environmental charity or project to achieve equivalent environmental benefit. The offender must also demonstrate it will change its behaviour and ensure compliance with environmental legislation.
Wessex Water is required to:
- Make improvements to its sewers in the area by installing and improving telemetry
- Pay £15,000 to the Sustainable Eels Group, to put eels back into the affected River Trym and Bristol rivers
- Pay £10,000 to the Bristol Avon Rivers Trust (BART) for work in the catchment
- Pay £500 compensation to Henbury Golf Club for the impact to its business
- Payment of our costs
Failure to comply with an EU may result in the offender being prosecuted for the original offence.
The EA's Nick Hayden said: "We did initially consider prosecution due to the serious environmental harm it had caused. However, the company then submitted an Enforcement Undertaking (EU), which we subsequently accepted, as we considered it was a more proportionate response and that it would achieve more for the environment than if the company had been convicted and fined."
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