Thames Water Urged To Priorities Environmental Issues

Supplier Thames Water has been called upon by an Environment Agency lead investigator to ensure that the environment is put at the top of its agenda after it was fined £2 million for discharging untreated sewage into a brook in West Oxfordshire.


According to the Witney Gazette, the sewage polluted 50m of the Idbury Brook, succeeding in flooding a nearby garden and killing 146 Bullhead fish. The sentence of £2 million was handed down just 21 months after the company was also issued with a record £20 million fine for a similar offence.


The Environment Agency’s Robert Davis said that this is in fact the 126th time that the agency and the former National Rivers Authority have prosecuted the supplier for sewage pollution since privatisation of the water industry back in 1989.


He explained that previous action taken by the agency has led to real improvements on the part of the company but “a repeat cycle” must be avoided and the hope now is that this fine will push “the environment higher up their agenda”.


“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,” he went on to add. “[Thames Water says] it’s inevitable they have problems – it’s a big operation, but they have 15 million customers so they’re well funded to comply with the law.”


In late 2017, the WWF published the results of a long-term investigation into the state of the rivers throughout England and Wales, revealing that 55 per cent of our failing rivers are in fact polluted with sewage.


The biggest problem in this regard is constant discharge from old and outdated sewage treatment plants, discharges that are in fact legal but with insufficient levels of treatment required to safeguard river health.


There are also more than 18,000 sewer overflows across England and Wales, with about 90 per cent of them discharging raw sewage directly into our rivers. Overflows are only meant to take place during extreme rainfall so as to prevent sewage from backing up into property, but it was found that eight to 14 per cent of overflows discharge sewage into rivers at least once a week.


In the last five years, however, the sector has made strides to learn about this particular problem, with the Environment Agency monitoring nearly a third of sewer overflows in England and plans in place to increase this by the year 2020.


Sewage pollution can lead to increased algae growth, which can starve our waterways of the oxygen required for wildlife to survive, affecting animals like otters and kingfishers, which both prey on aquatic life. While regulations need to be improved, you too can start making a difference by ensuring that kitchen fat, wet wipes and sanitary products aren’t flushed down drains and sinks.


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