EA prosecutes Anglian Water on beach water pollution

A valve left half open at the Ness Point Sewage Pumping Station is believed to have cost two of East Anglia's beaches to lose their Blue Flag award for beach water quality.

Anglian Water was fined £14,000 in June for what is the water company’s first prosecution for beach water pollution failures. There were six prosecutions by the EA against Anglian last year.

“Anglian Water does invest a tremendous amount into improving water quality,” Chris Dodson of the Environment Agency told edie. “It was picked up on by a contractor for Anglian Water, but not immediately.” The half-opened valve allowed sewage to discharge closer to the shore than it would under normal operating conditions. Under normal circumstances, the untreated sewage is discharged through a 1km outfall pipe into the sea.

“The weekend that tests were done for the Blue Flag award was just after the incident and the water was not found to meet Blue Flag standards,” says Dodson. South Beach and the beach north of Claremont Pier, which would have been eligible for Blue Flag status for the first time this year, are the two beaches in question.

Since the Lowestoft incident in early May, there have been two other water pollution occurrences involving Anglian Water.

On 20 May, contractors working for Anglian are thought to have left a valve half open and 100,000 gallons of untreated sewage entered the Prittle brook near Southend Wastewater Treatment Plant. Ironically, the 20 May incident took place almost a year to the day after Anglian was fined £10,000 for polluting the same stretch of water.

Since then, sewage sludge from Braintree Sewage Treatment Works was found to have entered the Brain river. First reports were received by the EA on 19 June. According to Dodson, a corroded pipe was the cause of the incident. The EA has not yet announced whether it will seek to prosecute Anglian regarding the Brain river pollution.

On the positive side, it was found that the sewage sludge pollution did not stretch so far as to pose a threat to the estuary, where there are oyster beds.

“We’re very tough on Anglian and sometimes they think we’re too tough,” says Dodson.

From the EA’s point of view, any organisation that is capable of polluting the environment should have processes in place to prevent pollution incidents. If an incident occurs then the organisation must have processes in place to act properly. EA considers prosecution if it feels that an organisation does not have proper processes in place or if it has failed to employ them.

Other recent EA enforcements include action against Derby-based Mason Coatings plc, after an unauthorised emission of isopropyl alchohol, and action against Castle Cement Ltd, of Clitheroe, Lancashire, after an investigation into persistent haze and odours.

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