South West Water has been ordered to pay £18,820 in fines and costs for allowing sewage to pollute the Menalhyl River near St Columb in North Cornwall.
The case was brought by the Environment Agency.
On August 3, 2011 an Agency officer was carrying out monitoring work on the River Menalhyl when she found signs of pollution. Inspecting the river more closely, the officer found sewage leaking out of one of the main sewers that feed into St Columb Sewage Treatment Works.
The river flows into a designated bathing water at Mawgan Porth, some seven kilometres downstream of St Columb.
Further checks showed that a member of the public had reported a similar leak from the same sewer manhole on July 17, 2011. South West Water attended, but was unable to completely clear a blockage that was causing the leak, so called in a specialist firm to ‘jet’ the sewer. A significant build-up of silt was discovered in the sewer.
To prevent further sewage spills, the water company carried out a full ‘sewer clean’. The blockage was finally cleared on August 10, 2011 after contractors removed a total of 16 tonnes of silt and debris from the sewer over 20 days.
There were further problems at St Columb on August 19, 2011 when South West Water reported a cracked sewer close to the sewage treatment works. There was no pollution as sewage was tankered away before it reached the river.
However, on September 7, 2011 the Agency was called to the area again after sewage was found leaking from the same location as the incidents on July 17 and August 3 and was polluting the River Menalhyl.
‘This pollution was caused by South West Water’s inability to respond speedily to repeated sewer blockages. The company’s failure to take prompt action resulted in pollution of the River Menalhyl over an extended period of time. This adversely affected water quality and put animals and plantlife at risk ,’ said Stephen Clark for the Environment Agency.
Appearing before Bodmin magistrates yesterday (June 20), South West Water of Peninsula House, Rydon Lane, Exeter was fined a total of £15,000 and ordered to pay £3,820 costs after pleading guilty, at an earlier hearing, to three offences of discharging poisonous, noxious or polluting matter into a tributary of the River Menalhyl near St Columb, Cornwall in breach of the Environmental Permitting regulations 2010.