£1.2m fine for water company

£1.2m fine for water company, Anglian Water following Environment Agency prosecution. Anglian Water has been hit with fines totalling £1,221,000 after it admitted to causing pollution incidents in two separate court cases this week.

The water company was ordered to pay £871,000 after a catalogue of system and maintenance failures caused several incidents of pollution across Cambridgeshire, Buckinghamshire, and Northamptonshire across a five-month spell, between May and September 2019.

The list of process failures included reporting delays, faulty screening and a general breakdown in planning and maintenance, all of which caused damaging blockages and pollution. After one particular incident, a subsequent biological survey showed dead aquatic invertebrates for 1,500 metres. The court also heard how at one site an unchecked build-up of ‘unflushables’ such as cotton buds and sanitary pads caused a blockage resulting in discharge of settled sludge into the treated sewage.

The site was originally fitted with a screen to prevent blockages in the process but was removed in 2018. The court heard that increased cleaning had not taken place and no steps taken to reduce the risk of blockages caused by the removal of the screen.

The water company was also ordered to pay £37,605.13 in costs at Loughborough Magistrates Court on 12 September 2022.

£1.2m fine for water company
Big fines for water companies causing pollution

In a separate court case, heard at Cambridge Magistrates Court, Anglian Water was sentenced to pay £350,000 after a pumped sewer at Bourn Brook at Caldecott, Cambridgeshire, burst for the sixth time in several years. Officers visiting the site in September 2019 found ammonia and low oxygen levels in the water, posing a potential risk to wildlife at the site. Despite efforts from Anglian Water to stop the polluted water from spreading, its methods proved insufficient and a total of 4km of the watercourse was affected for at least five days.

Since 2004 the sewer, which is only 1.5km long, had burst 6 times. The court found that Anglian Water had been too slow in putting in place potential mitigation measures. They only located air valves, designed to reduce stress on the sewer, after the incident took place. These valves had been in place for at least 25 years.

Anglian Water pleaded guilty to causing poisonous, noxious, or polluting matter to enter inland freshwaters without an environmental permit, and were told to pay £28,025.66 in costs as well as a victim surcharge of £181.

“Serious pollution is a serious crime and I welcome these sentences from the courts.

“The Environment Agency will pursue any water company that fails to uphold the law or protect nature, and will continue to press for the strongest possible penalties for those which do not.”

Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency

If you require environmental advice or support for your business, please contact one of the Ashbrooke team.

River habitat survey manual

The Environment Agency has re-released its river habitat survey manual originally published in2003 and made it available on their website as a free download.

River Habitat Survey (RHS) is a method designed to characterise and assess, in broad terms, the physical structure of freshwater streams and rivers. The field survey element
does not require specialist geomorphological or botanical expertise, but recognition of vegetation types and an understanding of basic geomorphological principles and processes are needed.

RHS is carried out along a standard 500m length of river channel. Observations are made
at ten equally spaced spot-checks along the channel, whilst information on valley form and land-use in the river corridor provides additional context.

The underlying need for any observational method such as RHS is confidence in the survey data. This means consistent recording of features by competent, well-trained, and accredited surveyors as well as checks on subsequent data-entry onto the computer database.

river habitat survey
River habitat survey

The field survey has been designed, tested and improved as a result of extensive use on rivers in the UK since 1994. The 2003 version represents the first major overhaul of the form design, revision of some component elements, and updating of the guidance manual, since 1997. The major differences between the 1997 and 2003 versions are summarised in Appendix 7 of the guidance.

Surveyor accreditation is needed for data to be entered onto the RHS database. This means surveyors attending a training course using the 2003 version, and passing an accreditation test.

RHS has also been tested in other European countries such as Finland, France, Austria, Portugal (Madeira), Italy and Slovenia with a view to adapting the survey for local conditions. Cross-comparison between RHS and other methods for surveying river hydromorphology in Europe has also been carried out,4 with a view to producing standard guidance on techniques for assessing the physical characteristics of watercourses.

RHS also helps to provide information on river structure, vegetation character and land use required for SERCON (System for Evaluating Rivers for Conservation), an assessment system that has scoring systems for several attributes in relation to determining the nature conservation value of rivers.

Guidance is provided on the fieldwork survey element of the core RHS method only. It does not cover map-based information gathering or additional modules such as the one being developed for gathering specialist geomorphological information.

It is imperative that all surveys are conducted in conditions which are safe for surveyors. A health and safety assessment is an integral part of the survey and the form must be completed before embarking on the survey, and attached with the completed survey forms.

An online copy of the manual can be found here. If you require environmental advice please contact one of the Ashbrooke team.

Prosecutions for angling offences

The Environment Agency has prosecuted two men for angling offences. Wayne Knight of Cosby, Leicester, was fined £220, ordered to pay costs of £135 plus a victim’s surcharge of £34.  Knight admitted fishing without a licence at Mill on the Soar, Sutton Elms, on 1 February 2022.

Lester McManus of Leicester, was fined £40, ordered to pay costs of £135 plus a victim’s surcharge of £34. McManus admitted fishing for freshwater fish during the close season at Aylestone on the River Soar on 24 March 2022.

Angling offences
Environment Agency prosecutions for angling offences (stock image)

A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said:

“These cases show we pursue offenders through the courts and won’t hesitate to take enforcement action where anglers break rules.”

Anyone found fishing illegally may face prosecution and a fine of up to £2,500.

Any angler aged 13 or over, fishing on a river, canal or still water needs a licence. The money raised through the sales of rod licences is re-invested back into the sport and illegal fishing undermines the Environment Agency’s efforts to make fishing sustainable.

A 1-day licence costs from just £6 and an annual licence costs from just £30 (concessions available). Junior licences are free for 13 – 16-year-olds.

Licences are available online or by calling the Environment Agency on 0344 800 5386 between 8am and 6pm, Monday to Friday. The Environment Agency carries out enforcement work all year round and is supported by partners including the police and the Angling Trust. Fisheries enforcement work is intelligence-led, targeting known hot-spots and where illegal fishing is reported.

If you require advice on environmental issues, please contact one of the Ashbrooke team.