Anglian Water fined £350,000 following sewer burst

Appearing at Cambridge Magistrates Court on October 12, Anglian Water pleaded guilty to causing poisonous, noxious, or polluting matter to enter inland freshwaters without an environmental permit. 

The water company was fined £350,000 and told to pay £28,025.66 in costs as well as a victim surcharge of £181.

In sentencing, District Judge Ken Sheraton found that there had been “no effective surveys” of the pipe in question. He went on to say that had there been surveys, the 2 air valves would have been noticed.

The incident took place on September 10, 2019, when Anglian Water were notified by a member of the public that sewage was overflowing. The sewage was going onto a bridleway and into a ditch which was a tributary of the Bourn Brook.

The water company reported the incident to the Environment Agency. Officers visited the scene and took samples from the water after it was found that sewage from the sewer had begun to enter nearby Bourn Brook.

Officers found ammonia and low oxygen levels in the water, posing a potential risk to wildlife at the site. Despite efforts from Anglian Water to stop the polluted water from spreading, its methods proved insufficient. In total 4 kilometres of the watercourse was affected for at least 5 days.

Since 2004 the sewer, which is only 1.5 kilometres long, had burst 6 times. The court found that Anglian Water had been too slow in putting in place potential mitigation measures. They only located air valves, designed to reduce stress on the sewer, after the incident took place. These valves had been in place for at least 25 years.

Jeremy Hay, Senior Environment Officer, for the Environment Agency said:

“Anglian Water should have done more to prevent this sewer from bursting in the first place.

“Sewage pollution can be devastating to human health, local biodiversity and our environment.

“Companies must invest in their infrastructure to avoid pollution such as this.

“Members of the public with concerns about pollution should call our incident hotline on 0800 807060.”



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