Thames Water face £3.3m fine over sewage spill that turned rivers ‘black’ and ‘grey’
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Thames Water have been fined more than £3m after pleading guilty to four charges related to polluting rivers. On July 3, Lewes Crown Court heard from an eyewitness that a river near Gatwick Airport turned “black” and “grey” after being pumped with “millions of litres” of undiluted sewage.
It is said that Environment Agency officers pulled out 1,400 dead fish from the rivers, which include the Gatwick Stream and River Mole between Crawley, in West Sussex, and Horley, in Surrey.
At the end of a two-day sentencing hearing, Judge Christine Laing KC said she believed Thames Water ‘deliberately’ misled the Environment Agency over the incident by excluding water readings.
Lisa Roberts KC, defendant for Thames Water, said the company “deeply regrets the event” and offers its “unreserved and sincere apology”. She said the company disagrees that ‘cumulative management deficiencies’ led to the spillage, instead putting it down to a “faulty switch” in the storm pump that could not have been foreseen.
The 3.3m fine comes as the company, which supplies water for one in four people in Britain, faces mounting pressure over ‘unsustainable’ debts of more than £14bn. On June 17, CEO Sarah Bentley, resigned with immediate effect related to the company’s poor environmental performance.