Northumbrian Water fined more than £500,000 after raw sewage leaks into stream

Northumbrian Water has been fined more than £500,000 after raw sewage was discharged into an East Durham stream.

Thursday, 7th October 2021, 2:34 pm

The firm was prosecuted by the Environment Agency after the incident in May 201, which damaged the ecology of a 2km stretch of the waterway.

The company appeared at Durham Crown Court for sentence yesterday, Wednesday, October 6, after pleading guilty at a hearing two days earlier to discharging sewage effluent into the watercourse that runs through Heads Hope Dene near Castle Eden.

It was fined £540,000 and ordered to pay costs of more than £142,000 and a £170 victim surcharge.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

A 2km stretch of the stream was affected

The court heard that on May 22, 2017, a sewer blockage caused sewage to pour out of a manhole cover and discharge into the watercourse that runs through the dene.

Northumbrian Water itself reported the incident to the Environment Agency and an agency officer attended to investigate. Water sample results indicated raw sewage had entered the stream.

Surveys later found the ecology and habitat of the watercourse was damaged for 2km, with river sample results indicating a detrimental impact on water quality for 4km.

Northumbrian Water began immediate work to clear the blockage that day as well as remedial work to make improvements. A longer term solution to re-route the sewer out of the Dene is under way.

Sewage in the water course

Rachael Caldwell, Environment Manager for the Environment Agency in the North East, said: “We take our responsibility to protect the environment very seriously.

"Water companies have a legal duty to avoid pollution and must act quickly to reduce any damage that happens as a result of their activities. The regulations are clear and are enforced robustly.

Read More

Read More
Work begins to clear 20,000 tonnes of waste from former Alex Smiles site in Sund...

“In this case raw sewage poured out of a manhole cover and into the Dene, which had a negative impact along 4km of the watercourse. Our officers have worked tirelessly to bring this case to court and we’re pleased with the result, which demonstrates our commitment to holding water companies accountable.

The manhole from which the water leaked

“Since 2015 the Environment Agency has brought 46 prosecutions against water companies, securing fines of over £131million. This enforcement action and the pressure it has put on water companies has led to £30billion of investment by the water industry.”

Support our journalism and subscribe to this website to enjoy unlimited access to news, sport, retro, daily puzzles and more online. With a digital subscription, you can read more than five articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click ‘Subscribe’ in the menu to find out more and sign up.

Water flowing from the manhole