South West Water fined £30,000 for allowing sewage into Plymouth river
SOUTH West Water has been fined nearly £30,000 for allowing raw sewage to overflow into the Plym estuary.
Bathers were advised not to use beaches around the Hoe after the untreated effluent flowed into the Cattewater from a massive works, Plymouth magistrates heard.
Tests showed the waters failed the quality standards after the sewage was discharged from Plymouth Central Works in Cattedown in August 2010.
South West Water apologised in court for the incident and blamed a combination of heavy rain, failure of pumps and a delay in supplying equipment.
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But presiding magistrate Geoff Clemerson blamed a "failure of communication" at the company and said he would have expected bosses to better monitor the situation.
South West Water was fined a total of £28,000 and ordered to pay £5,500 in costs.
The company admitted causing the discharge of sewage into controlled waters from the plant near Laira Bridge between August 22 and August 27 2010.
South West Water also admitted contravening its environmental permit by not having a stand-by pump and two offences of failing to notify the Environmental Agency.
Judith Constable, for the agency, said screened or sieved sewage overflowed from a huge storm tank between August 22 and August 25 and again from later on August 25 to August 27.
She said by coincidence the agency took samples from the Hoe bathing waters which failed quality standards for bacteria associated with sewage on August 26.
The court heard bathers were advised not to use the beaches over that Bank Holiday weekend and that patches of sewage were visible in the estuary.
Mrs Constable said a series of pumps which move water from the huge storm drain into the treatment plant began to fail from June. The sewage otherwise overflows into the Cattewater without processing.
She added South West Water did not tell the agency until August 26, four days after the problem arose.
Tom Bradnock, for South West Water, blamed a "perfect storm" of problems which the company could not have expected. But he apologised on behalf of the company.
He said pumps had broken in June and July but had not been properly replaced because of an unprecedented delay in supplying highly specialised cable.
Mr Bradnock said further pumps were damaged by a huge surge of sewage after very heavy rain. The pumps emptying the storm drain were only operating at 25 per cent capacity.
He added the company had since demoted and given key staff at the plant early retirement and now keeps more spare equipment at the works.
Mr Bradnock said the low water quality could not entirely be attributed to sewage from the works and tests the very next day showed standards had improved.
He added there was no evidence of harm to fish, other wildlife or people and the pollution would have been greatly diluted in the estuary.