SWW fined for water pollution

South West Water (SWW) has been slapped with a fine of £16,000 after polluting the Tamar Estuary with poor quality sewage effluent.

The company pled guilty to four water pollution offences at Plymouth Magistrates earlier this week (April 16) and was to pay £4,211 in costs, as well as a £15.00 victim surcharge on top of the fine.

The incident, which took place in February last year, was brought forwards by the Environment Agency (EA) after SWW reported that an effluent sample from its Camel Head sewage treatment works near Plymouth had failed the required standard and was continuing to discharge poor quality effluent into the estuary.

An investigating EA officer who visited the site was told the plant was experiencing a series of problems, which had resulted in rags and other debris passing forward into the primary settlement tanks which had reduced the effectiveness of the biological treatment.

As a result, the sewage entering the estuary had not undergone the full treatment process, which the EA warned increased the risk of fish and other aquatic life suffocating through oxygen starvation.

EA officer Sarah Taylor, said: “The pollution could have been avoided had the company addressed the problems with the inlet screens sooner. This lack of action resulted in the Tamar estuary and nearby Special Area of Conservation being put at risk.”

SWW has now agreed an action plan to improve compliance at its sewage treatment works and reduce the risk of illegal discharges from its site.

Carys Matthews

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