South West Water fined for water pollution

South West Water (SWW) has been fined for discharging poor quality effluent from a sewage treatment works into a River tributary near Exeter, Devon.

In a case brought forwards by the Environment Agency (EA), the water company was found to have breached its biochemical oxygen demand limit (BOD) for the third time in 12 months, after it allowed an unacceptable standard of discharge treated effluent from its Tedburn St Mary to enter the watercourse.

BOD is the amount of oxygen required by bacteria to decompose the organic matter in a sample of polluted water and is used as a measure of the degree of water pollution.

As a result, SWW was ordered to pay £8,734 in fines and costs after it plead guilty at Exeter Magistrates Court yesterday (December 21) to three offences under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010. The company was also ordered to pay a victim’s surcharge of £15.00.

The court heard that one of the offences resulted from South West Water’s failure to notify the EA of deterioration in effluent quality, while on March 16 the agency discovered BOD exceeded its limit and the site was non-compliant. Previous BOD exceedances occurred on May 29 and June 2. The sewage treatment works was still not operating properly when EA officers visited it again on June 15.

The same sample also contained a high concentration of suspended solids indicating the effluent was of a very poor quality. The permit limit for suspended solids is 32mg/l. The sample contained 1,280mg/l. Such high levels of solids would have given the effluent an appearance of ‘thin slurry’, said the EA.

EA officer Richard Fisher, said: “Operators of sewage treatment works must ensure they are compliant with their permits to protect the environment and human health. The quality effluent at this site deteriorated as a result of poor maintenance and supervision.”

SWW blamed the failure on a blockage at the inlet of the sewage works.

Carys Matthews

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