Yorkshire Water fined £12,000 for sewage in brook

Yorkshire Water was fined £12,000 today (Thursday 1st November, 2007) at Halifax Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to breaking a consent to discharge into the Hebble Brook, Halifax.

Yorkshire Water Services Limited of Halifax Road, Bradford, was also ordered to pay full costs of £1,286 to the Environment Agency which brought the case.

Trevor Cooper, prosecuting, told the court how on 27 February this year, the Environment Agency was alerted that the Hebble Brook at Salterhebble, Halifax, was discoloured. Environment Agency officers inspected the watercourse and saw that it was a purple colour and smelt of sewage.

The sewage was coming from a discharge point from Halifax waste water treatment works, which is operated by Yorkshire Water.

Mr Cooper told the court that Yorkshire Water has a consent to discharge, which allows them to discharge untreated sewage into the Hebble Brook when the flow of water exceeds 2,615.7 litres per second, which can happen when there is very heavy rainfall.

However, that day the rate of flow was below the agreed amount, so there should not have been any discharge at this point.

At the treatment works, officers saw there was a build up of rags on a screen which was causing a blockage. The flow had built up behind the screen so that some of the incoming untreated sewage was escaping into the watercourse via a storm discharge outlet.

In interview, Yorkshire Water’s catchment manager said that its usual screens were not working because of a mechanical breakdown, so they were clearing it manually. Their contractors are now providing cover 24 hours a day.

Mr Cooper added that Yorkshire Water signed a formal caution for a similar incident which took place on 24 August 2006.

In mitigation, Yorkshire Water entered an early guilty plea, cooperated fully with the Environment Agency and have spent £17 million upgrading the treatment works.

The magistrates’ said there was no significant environmental impact and that it was not deliberate. They appreciated that Yorkshire Water cooperated fully and that steps had been taken to avoid a repeat of this incident.