The company yesterday (November 24) pled guilty to both charges at Workington Magistrates Court for the incidents which took place between December 26 2010 and start of January 8 2011, after a member of the public reported that raw sewage was overflowing from the Portinscale pumping station

An investigation by the Environment Agency (EA) found evidence that sewage effluent had discharged from the station on two separate occasions, entering a field and a ditch along the site’s boundary which drains into the Pow Beck and causing pollution to watercourses in the area.

On a visit to the site, EA officers concluded that the incident was caused after pumps intended to pump sewage to Keswick Waste Water Treatment Works stopped working.

As a result, United Utilities said it switched the pumps on manually and the overflow from the tower stopped. It then carried out a clean up of the area.

According to United Utilities, its two telemetry alarms, on December 26 and 28 were reviewed, but the findings were not passed to its operations team for investigation. A site visit on December 30 had not identified a problem it added.

EA environment manager Jeremy Westgarth, said, “This incident had the potential to have a major impact on the environment. We have worked with United Utilities, and other partners, to drive improvements in water quality in our rivers and lakes. It is disappointing that avoidable incidents, such as this, continue to happen.”

In mitigation United Utilities asked the court to take into account that the discharges had occurred as a result of extreme weather conditions at the time, which had severely affected its operational sites in terms of resourcing and access.

It also provided details of a number of preventative measures implemented at the site.

Carys Matthews

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