Last reviewed 3 July 2020

Severn Trent Water Ltd has been fined £800,000 after allowing 3.8 million litres of raw sewage to enter a Shropshire stream from a local sewage treatment works.

The company pleaded guilty at Telford Magistrates Court to causing sewage to discharge into the Row Brook from the Acton Burnell Treatment Works and other related offences.

The offences came to light on 10 May 2016 when a member of Environment Agency staff who was out walking her dogs smelled a strong unpleasant odour and saw a ditch full of raw sewage at Acton Burnell.

Environment Agency officers later inspected the site and found the brook was polluted for 250 metres downstream of the works. Further investigation revealed the incident was caused by a fat blockage at the works inlet. A second inspection three days later to check that the sewage had been cleared, showed the discharge of raw sewage was happening again. 

Sewage effluent from the works normally discharges into storm tanks during very poor weather conditions, but in this case was found to have been incorrectly discharging via the works storm tanks during normal weather, which meant sewage was being discharged into the brook without being properly treated.

An ecological survey by the Environmental Agency carried out the following day concluded that sewage in the brook had caused significant harm to marine life. Speaking after the case, Environment Agency officer, Adam Shipp, said the company had been aware of the capacity issues at the works for a number of years, “yet had taken inadequate steps to address them”.

“Water companies are aware that their activities have the potential for serious environmental impacts, and they know that we will take appropriate action when they cause pollution,” he added.

Following an inspection of the sewage flow data to the works, the Environment Agency was able to show that discharges of raw sewage had been happening regularly for 17 months, calculating that during this period Severn Trent Water had illegally discharged over 3.8 million litres of raw sewage to the brook.

Severn Trent was fined a total of £800,000 — £400,000 on the first and last charge, and no separate penalty on the second. It was also ordered to pay costs of £70,420.28 and a victim surcharge of £120.