Water company fined after sewage spills into South Devon river

Environment Agency News Release

South West Water has been ordered to pay £3,000 in fines and costs for allowing sewage effluent to leak from a manhole into the River Yealm. The case was brought by the Environment Agency.

A member of the public alerted the Agency on March 1, 2007 after he noticed a manhole near the Lee Mill Pumping Station, Ivybridge was overflowing and sewage was entering the River Yealm.

South West Water is allowed, under the terms of its licence, to discharge sewage effluent from the pumping station to the River Yealm, but only in storm conditions or an emergency. It is not permitted to discharge sewage from the manhole.

A similar spill occurred at Lee Mill in November 2005 when an Agency officer recommended the water company lowered the pumping station’s storm overflow. The officer noticed the overflow appeared to have been set too high causing the manhole, which was positioned at a lower level, to intermittently discharge.

The impact of the spill was minor as flows in the River Yealm were high at the time of the illegal discharge. Also, the effluent was heavily diluted.

‘South West Water was made aware of the problems associated with this site, yet didn’t appear to respond. Even when the environmental impact is minor, improvements must be made in a reasonable time,’ said Mark Jacobs for the Environment Agency.

South West Water, of Peninsula House, Rydon Lane, Exeter, was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £1,000 costs by Plymouth magistrates yesterday (Dec 13) after pleading guilty to, on March 1, 2007, causing sewage effluent to enter the River Yealm at Lee Mill Pumping Station, Ivybridge contrary to Section 85(3) and (6) of the Water Resources Act 1991.