£80k From Thames Water To Rivers Trust After Pollution Incident

Water supplier Thames Water is set to hand over £80,000 to the South East Rivers Trust, as well as paying the Environment Agency’s costs of £20,000 for the investigation, after it allowed sewage to escape from a blocked sewer in 2013.


Some five years ago, a sewer pipe in Chislehurst became blocked up with tree roots, debris, grease, fat and oil, forcing sewage above ground which flooded a field and two streams, and then entered the River Shuttle.


After the Environment Agency’s investigation, the supplier installed equipment to monitor sewage levels across its network, notifying them about developing problems and allowing obstructions to be cleared as soon as possible. It also reclined the sewer, to prevent roots from entering the pipes in the future.


The £80,000 payment will be made as a civil sanction, with the money used to install a fish pass on the River Cray at Bexley, which will allow numerous types of fish to swim upstream to the upper reaches of the river.


Land and water officer for the Environment Agency said: “A lack of maintenance by Thames Water over an extended period of time was to blame for this incident.


“Tree roots were allowed to grow into the sewer unchecked, resulting in fat and sewage solids causing a complete blockage. Sewage backed up and was sent with some force through two manholes, triggering significant pollution. Thames Water compounded the pollution by failing to clear the sewer quickly after the Environment Agency reported the incident to them.”


It’s thought that the 2013 incident killed up to 20 stickleback fish and hundreds of invertebrates, with the sewage potentially flowing for several days. The effect of the pollution on river habitats and the quality of water stretched over several miles.


Thames Water has come under fire several times for pollution incidents, with lead investigator of the Environment Agency Robert Davis urging the company late last month (December) to really make environmental protection a higher priority.


Last year, the company was sentenced at Oxford Crown Court and fined £2 million after untreated sewage was discharged from a pumping station and polluted a stretch of the Idbury Brook, flooding a nearby garden and killing 146 bullhead fish.


Mr Davies was quoted by the Witney Gazette as saying: “Cases like this have a really serious impact on people and wildlife. We want this to prompt companies to take more proactive action, maintaining to a high standard and investigating. Previous actions have resulted in significant improvements from Thames Water. We don’t want to have a repeat cycle. We hope this case pushes the environment higher up their agenda.”


A Thames Water representative confirmed that since 2015 there hasn’t been a single instance of pollution issues at any of its pumping stations, with incidents reduced by 69 per cent since 2013.


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