Southern Water fined for sewage error in Herne Bay


The Environment Agency has today (Wednesday 13 February 2008) prosecuted Southern Water Services Ltd. after a pumping station failure caused sewage to enter a stream in Herne Bay.

The water company was fined £2,500 and £1,783 costs at Canterbury Magistrates Court on Wednesday 13 February 2008.

Southern Water Services Ltd owns and operates the Eddington Lane Waste Water pumping station at Herne Bay. The pumping station has a consent to discharge into Plenty Brook in the event of a storm, to deal with the problem of excessive flows. This consent allows storm sewage to enter a watercourse on the premise that the high levels of water will significantly dilute it.

The court heard that on 12 June 2007, the Environment Agency was informed by Southern Water that sewage was being discharged from the pumping station into the brook even though there were no storm conditions. The Environment Officer was told that the storm sewage pumps had been activated automatically because of equipment failure. An alarm triggered at the Southern Water control centre in Worthing but was cleared in error so no-one noticed the problem until the following morning. Southern Water estimated that 197 cubic metres of sewage was discharged into the Plenty Brook.

Jon Griffin, Environment Agency officer said: “The plenty brook discharges into the sea at Herne Bay -between two EC bathing water beaches and into a designated shellfish hygiene bed - so an error like this could pose a risk to both bathers and shell fish. The conditions we put on Southern Water’s consent are there to protect the environment and the sensitivity of this area means it is vital that the company adhere to them. Southern Water is well aware of the risks posed by any escape of sewage to the Plenty Brook but the company still failed to respond appropriately to an alarm indicating that the pumping station was pumping sewage to the Brook. It is lucky that this incident did not cause more environmental damage.”