South West Water has been handed a record fine of more than £2 million for environmental offences spanning a period of four years across Devon and Cornwall.
The water company was found guilty of six illegal water discharge activities and seven environmental permit condition contraventions at sites including Lostwithiel, Kilmington, Crediton, Torpoint sewage treatment works and the Watergate Bay sewage pumping station.
The fine is the largest ever imposed for environmental offences in the region.
District Judge Matson, delivering the sentence, warned that “incidents of pollution will no longer be tolerated by these courts”.
The water company was also ordered to pay £280,000 in costs and a £170 victim surcharge.
The Environment Agency (EA) revealed that there were multiple deficiencies in South West Water’s management systems that contributed to each of the offences.
The company pleaded guilty to the charges earlier in court.
Inaccurate and inadequate operational procedures led to harmful chemicals escaping from South West Water sites on more than one occasion, causing significant environmental damage.
The fine reflects the severity of the pollution that occurred across Devon and Cornwall, causing damage to both wildlife and protected sites, said Water Minister Rebecca Pow.
The EA said the fine would be paid from the company’s operating profits, rather than being passed on to customers, and will be re-invested into a new Water Restoration Fund, which aims to improve natural environment and water quality.
Susan Davy, Chief Executive Officer of Pennon Group said: “Any pollution incident is one too many. These 7 isolated incidents that took place between 2016 and 2020 were unacceptable and it’s right that we have been held to account by the EA.
“ I also want to be clear that this didn’t happen because we don’t care, we do. Everyone who works for South West Water is extremely passionate about our environment and we need to do more to prove this to our customers and visitors to our region.
“We have a plan, it is working and we won’t stop until everyone can feel proud about the performance of their water company in the South West.”