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Thursday, 24 October

Unresolved Fault Leads to Massive Enviro Fine

United Utilities has been ordered to pay a fine of £666,000 after pleading guilty to polluting a river in Greater Manchester with untreated sewage effluent.

The Environment Agency took the prosecution against the water company after sewage polluted the River Medlock over a distance of four kilometres.

It was a member of the public who initially reported the pollution at Park Bridge, Ashton-Under-Lyne on 14 October 2014 to the Environment Agency’s incident hotline.

Officers found that the pollution had deposited grey sludge on the River Medlock’s bed over four kilometres resulting in significant impact on fish stocks and water quality in the river.

In total United Utilities estimated that 21,700 cubic metres of sewage discharged into the water.

A report commissioned by United Utilities found that the incident had a detrimental impact on brown trout and had the potential to reduce the fish population the following year.

When the pollution was first reported, United Utilities Officers were attending a high-level alarm at the Sewage Tank and had identified a fault which meant the tank was not emptying to the foul sewer network as quickly as it should have been. This resulted in untreated raw sewage entering Glodwick Brook and the River Medlock, which is contrary to the permit conditions in place.

United Utilities admitted that their control centre had received an alarm about the discharge three days before but the fault had not been recognised.

In sentencing on Friday September 8, HH Judge Potter said the company’s negligence had resulted in significant harm.

Mark Easedale, Environment Manager for Greater Manchester, said: "The Environment Agency take pollution incidents very seriously and this case should send a strong message to companies of the potential consequences if they damage the environment.

"We work closely with United Utilities who have undertaken extensive work to reduce their impact on the environment. It’s important that we continue to work with partners in order to safeguard the environment and ensure such incidents are avoided in the future.

In mitigation United Utilities told the court of the steps they had taken to prevent a reoccurrence of this incident. The company were fined a total of £666,000 and ordered to pay costs of over £32,000.

Picture: The River Medlock

Article written by Cathryn Ellis

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