United Utilities pays £500k after polluting river and killing fish

The leak originated from the Riverton Water Treatment Works

Festival Net Zero 2021

United Utilities is paying £500,000 towards improving river habits after a water leak polluted a river and killed fish.

The water company offered the Enforcement Undertaking (EU) in response to a spill of acidic ferric salt solution from Riverton Water Treatment Works into River Douglas at Horwich in September 2016.

The acceptance of an EU offer is often a direct alternative to prosecution, in cases where the environmental impact is localised and where the Environment Agency (EA) is satisfied the offences were intentional.

EA officers investigating the incident found the river to be very acidic, turning to an orange colour and a “significant number” of brown trout were killed.

The EA accepted United Utilities’ offer, which included a payment of £500,000 to the Douglas Catchment Partnership, led by environmental charity Groundworks.

The water company also spent more than £88,000 on actions to prevent the incident from reoccurring.

Jennifer Hall, Land and Water Team Leader at the Environment Agency, said: “Environment Agency staff respond to pollution incidents 24/7 to contain pollution and protect water quality. We investigate pollution incidents to find the source, stop the problem and understand how best to reduce any impacts on local communities and the environment. We take tough action against any company or individual who causes significant pollution and damage to the environment.”

United Utilities apologised for the incident.

A spokesperson added: “At the time, we fully co-operated with the Environment Agency’s investigation and took the necessary action to prevent a reoccurrence. We also funded projects carried out by charities and other organisations that directly benefitted the environment within the River Douglas catchment area.”

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