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Thames Water told to pay £700,000 for polluting Maidenhead Ditch

Georgina Bishop

Thames Water has been ordered to pay more than £700,000 for polluting the Maidenhead Ditch - killing fish and leaving many in distress.

The ditch which joins the River Cut is a well-used by paddle borders and other water users, and home to Bray Marina, South East Water’s public water supply waterworks.

In June 2014 Thames Water caused pollution of the watercourse with raw sewage from its site at Maidenhead Sewage Treatment works (STW).

The case was brought by the Environment Agency and heard at Aylesbury Crown Court yesterday (Wednesday) where Thames Water were ordered to pay fines of £607,000, costs of £100,000 and a victim surcharge of £120.

The Environment Agency were called reports from members of the public in June 2014 who witnessed ‘a grey and odorous cloud of polluted water’ entering the Maidenhead Ditch and River Cut from the Sewage Treatment Works.

Officers carried out monitoring for water quality and took water samples of the watercourse at various locations.

The results revealed very low dissolved oxygen levels – indicating that oxygen was stripped from the water as a consequence of pollution.

The court heard how Maidenhead STW has a permit to discharge storm sewage in storm conditions into the watercourse to deal with the high flows which can result during periods of extreme rainfall. 

However In June 2014 there were no extreme weather conditions.

Maidenhead STW also has a permit to discharge treated final waste into the watercourse however, the Environment Agency told the court Thames Water did not meet the conditions of these permits around the time of the incident.

The sewage and partially treated sewage respectively ended up in the watercourse as a result of poorly performing equipment.

Investigations carried out by Environment Agency officers’ also revealed further failures by TWUL management.

There were repeated discharges of untreated or poorly treated raw sewage into the river and a failure to react adequately to alarms used to alert them to the serious problems.

Log book entries suggest ongoing discharges and other problems ‘at a site that was struggling to cope’.

Environment Agency officer Ben Govan said: “Our officers believe up to around 30 million litres of sewage polluted the ditch.

“Hundreds of fish died and the environment suffered as a result of Thames Water’s failures.

“Pollution could and should have been avoided had the many warnings and alerts leading up to the incident been acknowledged and dealt with properly.

“We take these types of incidents very seriously and will do everything within our powers to safeguard the environment and people affected, and that includes holding those who put the environment at risk to account for their actions”.

Thames Water has been told to pay more than £700,000 for polluting Maidenhead Ditch – killing fish and leaving many in distress.

The ditch, which joins The Cut, is popular with paddle boarders and other water users.

In June 2014 Thames Water caused pollution of the watercourse by raw sewage from its site at Maidenhead Sewage Treatment Works (STW).

The case was brought by the Environment Agency (EA) and heard at Aylesbury Crown Court yesterday (Wednesday) where Thames Water was ordered to pay fines of £607,000, costs of £100,000 and a victim surcharge of £120.

The EA was alerted by members of the public in June 2014 who witnessed ‘a grey and odorous cloud of polluted water’ entering the Maidenhead Ditch and River Cut from the Sewage Treatment Works.

Water samples of the watercourse taken by officers revealed very low dissolved oxygen levels – a consequence of pollution.

The court heard how Maidenhead STW has a permit to discharge storm sewage in storm conditions into the watercourse to deal with the high flows which can result during periods of extreme rainfall.

However, the agency said that in June 2014 there were no extreme weather conditions.

Maidenhead STW also has a permit to discharge treated final waste into the watercourse, but the agency told the court Thames Water did not meet the conditions of these permits around the time of the incident.

The sewage and partially treated sewage ended up in the watercourse as a result of poorly-performing equipment.

Investigations carried out by Environment Agency officers also revealed repeated discharges of untreated or poorly treated raw sewage into the water and a failure to react adequately to alarms.

Environment Agency officer Ben Govan said: “Our officers believe up to around 30 million litres of sewage polluted the ditch.

“Hundreds of fish died and the environment suffered as a result of Thames Water’s failures.

“Pollution could and should have been avoided had the many warnings and alerts leading up to the incident been acknowledged and dealt with properly.”

A Thames Water spokesperson said: “We take our role in protecting the environment extremely seriously and our current pollution levels are 46 per cent lower than five years ago, when this regrettable incident happened.

“We’re really sorry for what happened at our works, which has a very good track record, following one of the wettest winters on record. This led to higher than expected amounts of wet wipes and other unflushable items getting into the system and causing a blockage.

“We’ve since made major changes right across the business, including targeted sewer cleaning, increased investment and upgraded monitoring, to help us achieve our ambition of zero pollutions.”

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