Yorkshire Water fined £1.1m for illegal sewage discharge

Yorkshire Water has been ordered to pay £1.1 million for illegally discharging sewage that polluted a river near York. The company was sentenced at Leeds Crown Court after previously admitting […]

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By Priyanka Shrestha

Yorkshire Water has been ordered to pay £1.1 million for illegally discharging sewage that polluted a river near York.

The company was sentenced at Leeds Crown Court after previously admitting three environmental offences relating to the operations of its Naburn treatment works in Fulford.

The Environment Agency prosecuted the water firm after its officers spotted the pollution while carrying out a monitoring survey on the river in August 2013.

The sewage had flown into the River Ouse because of a pump failure at the treatment works.

Three pumps are needed to cope with the volume of sewage and the company is legally required to have at least one backup pump available in case any of the others fail, according to the Environment Agency..

However during the time of the incident, when one of the pumps failed, the backup was not operational. It was out of use for five months, breaching its environmental permit.

Mike Riby, Environment Management Team Leader at the Environment Agency said: “Water companies have a legal duty to ensure that their operations do not pose a threat to the environment. In this case, Yorkshire Water failed to have in place appropriate pumping equipment needed to process sewage at its Naburn treatment works. The resulting pollution had an impact on the quality of the water in the Ouse, affecting up to a kilometre of the river.

“We hope the court’s sentencing decision demonstrates the importance of companies adhering to environmental permitting rules.”

Yorkshire Water said it has carried out a full investigation and taken action to prevent a repeat occurrence.

A spokesperson added: “We accept today’s judgement and apologise for the pollution incident it relates to. This was an unfortunate incident and the Judge observed in court that Yorkshire Water takes its environmental responsibilities seriously and is clearly not a company that intentionally breaches its environmental obligations or flagrantly disregards the law. Protecting the environment is of crucial importance to us and we invest hundreds of millions of pounds every year to deliver this commitment.

“At the hearing, the Environment Agency also acknowledged that we are an industry leader when it comes to pollution performance.”