Skip to content

Southern Water fined £500,000 for polluting Whitstable waterways


Southern Water has been fined £500,000 after untreated sewage polluted watercourses in Whistable and Herne Bay.

The pollution left local wildlife dead, after there were problems at a Southern Water pumping station. An Environment Agency investigation found that the company discharged untreated sewage into the Swalecliffe Brook, polluting a 1.2 kilometer stretch of river. The brook runs through a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) – it was designated by government because of the quality of wildlife.

The spillage also left restrictions on bathing beaches in the area, while local shellfish growers were warned not to sell any shellfish harvested locally ahead of the Whitstable Oyster Festival.

The EA found that a total of 249 fish had been killed. The total included 155 eels which are considered a critically endangered species.

In response to the defence given by Southern Water, Judge Adele Williams, said that failure to act upon alarms cannot be laid at the door of one employee, calling it a failure of management.

Alan Cansdale, environment manager at the Environment Agency, said: “Southern Water has acknowledged that they had sufficient warning and knowledge of the incident to minimise the impact on the local environment, but failed to act swiftly and notify partners to help this happen. This incident, and the scale of the subsequent environmental impact, was a result of inadequate urgency to recognise there was a problem at the site.

“My officers are carrying out ongoing reviews of the Southern Water infrastructure involved in this incident, and we are pleased that Southern Water Services have acknowledged improvement is needed and have committed over £500,000 to increase the standards of wastewater treatment at the site.

“Canterbury City Council’s assistance was vital in the response to the incident and their subsequent expert guidance and technical input in bringing this important issue to court. We will continue to work with them to improve bathing and shellfish water quality remains one of our joint top priorities.”

Canterbury City Council’s environmental health officer, Sarah Maloney, said: “We were pleased to be able to work in partnership with the Environment Agency in this case. The good reputation of our shellfish industry is very important to local businesses and the council. We work hard all year to ensure our residents and visitors are able to enjoy local shellfish safely, so it’s vital we can respond to pollution events such as this promptly and effectively.”

Southern Water accepted responsibility for the pollution, apologising for the incident.

Its chief executive, Matthew Wright, said: “We are deeply sorry for this incident. Any pollution is regrettable which is why we pleaded guilty and accepted responsibility.

“The delay in attending promptly was due to us failing to interpret the relevant alerts at an early stage but when we became aware of the incident we responded quickly. We have since carried out an extensive investigation and measures have been put in place to reduce the risk of this happening again.

“This includes spending hundreds of thousands of pounds improving the pumping station, including replacing the pumps to make them more resilient to blockages. In addition, we’ve earmarked more than £1.6 million for future work at the site to enhance the reliability of the infrastructure.”


Article source:

Previous article Understanding Requirements for Hazardous Substances: Prevention, Storage, and Clean Up

Compare products

{"one"=>"Select 2 or 3 items to compare", "other"=>"{{ count }} of 3 items selected"}

Select first item to compare

Select second item to compare

Select third item to compare