Southern Water fined £330,000

Double pump failure diverts sewage across fields into watercourse near Southampton for nearly 20 hours.

River Itchen

Southern Water has been fined £330,000 for the raw sewage and other hazardous substances that were diverted across fields and into Shawford Lake Stream, leading to YMCA Fairthorne Manor. Almost 2,000 fish were killed as faulty equipment at a pumping station sent untreated effluent into the environment at Waltham Chase on the edge of the South Downs.

In the days after the incident in July 2019, investigators from the Environment Agency found pools of dirty water and polluted matter and vegetation in local fields. The stream was cloudy as pollution spread across nearly 3km. Ammonia levels in the water were 25 times the legal limit.

Scores of brown trout and other dead fish continued to be discovered. Tens became hundreds as the scale of the pollution emerged. Investigators believe the illegal flow of contaminated matter continued over public land and the stream for between five and 20 hours.

Dawn Theaker, environment manager in Hampshire for the Environment Agency, said: “We prosecuted Southern Water because of environmental harm caused by the pollution, a direct result of negligence in how the pumping station was managed. Yet again, we have a water company failing to properly respond to alarms when things go wrong at facilities they operate, allowing sewage to flow uncontrolled into fields and a stream. The court agreed with our case that Southern Water was negligent. Any pollution is unacceptable, but this one happened close to a Site of Special Scientific Interest and other designations meant to provide greater protection for nature”.

Water minister Robbie Moore MP, from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said “Southern Water have rightly been punished today for damage to our natural environment and it’s just the latest example of how polluters are being held to account. Today’s fine will be paid into our Water Restoration Fund, which will support further work we are already doing to clean up our waterways”.

In addition to the £330,000 fine, Southern Water have been ordered to pay the Environment Agency’s costs of £18,764 and a victim surcharge of £181.

Southern Water was fined £90m in 2021 following widespread pollution of rivers and coastal waters off Kent, Surrey and Sussex. Prosecutions of water companies by the Environment Agency for pollution incidents since 2015 have now led to fines of more than £150m.