READING, U.K. — Jan. 4, 2016 — Thames Water was fined £1 million ($1.47 million) after waste from its Tring sewage treatment works in Hertfordshire, southern England, leaked into a nearby canal, according to news sources.
The court heard that faulty inlet screens at the treatment plant caused effluent to spill into the Wendover Arm of the Grand Union Canal on nine occasions between July 2012 and April 2013, harming plants and fish. The poorly performing inlet screens caused equipment at the facility to become blocked, leading to sewage debris and sewage sludge being discharged into the canal.
Thames Water was handed the record fine after pleading guilty to two breaches of environmental regulations.
The company told the court that it had since spent £30,000 ($44,000) to replace the faulty screens.
Judge Andrew Bright QC said: “It was entirely foreseeable that the blockages would lead to pollution of the water.”
He added: “The time has now come for the courts to make clear that very large organisations (such as Thames Water) really must bring about the reforms and improvements for which they say they are striving because if they do not the sentences passed upon them for environmental offences will be sufficiently severe to have a significant impact on their finances.”
The case was taken to court by the Environment Agency (EA).
Commenting after the court’s decision was announced, Emily Rowland, EA environment officer, said: “We take these types of incidents very seriously and will do everything within our powers to safeguard the environment and people affected, and that includes holding to account those whose actions put the environment at risk.”