Severn Trent hit with £480,000 fine after raw sewage leaks kills fish in Sheffield angling society’s pond

The fish that were killed by the sewage leak
The fish that were killed by the sewage leak
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Severn Trent has been fined almost £500,000 after raw sewage leaked into a Sheffield angling society’s pond, killing dozens of fish and forcing its closure for six weeks.

The company was fined £480,000 after admitting two offences of contravening requirements of an environmental permit following problems with a faulty pipe.

Sewage in the pond

Sewage in the pond

The first incident happened in February 25 last year, affecting Slacks Pond in the village of Bramley near Rotherham.

It resulted in the death of 36 bream that had recently been introduced to the pond.

The Sheffield Piscatorial Society, whose members use the pond, said further dead fish were found in the weeks after the incident as it helped clear up the site.

Just one month later, the ageing pipe burst again.

The fish that were killed by the sewage leak

The fish that were killed by the sewage leak

While Severn Trent were aware of the issue after bringing in daily inspections, they failed to send enough tankers to deal with the issue on March 27 - resulting in sewage going into a nearby brook which flowed into Maltby Dyke.

It also led to a full crop of rapeseed in the field the pipe ran under being lost due to the farmer being unable to access the site.

Sheffield Crown Court heard that the water company giant had previously received two official warning letters from the Environment Agency following previous problems with the 35-year-old pipe in 2013.

The pipe was eventually replaced in August 2014 at a cost of £250,000.

Severn Trent have been fined after sewage leaked into Bramley Pond killing dozens of fish. Picture: Andrew Roe

Severn Trent have been fined after sewage leaked into Bramley Pond killing dozens of fish. Picture: Andrew Roe

James Puzey, prosecuting, said there had been negligence from Severn Trent in not acting more quickly to replace the pipe or using effective measures to be alerted to fresh leaks.

The court was told that in the past ten years, the company had been prosecuted 31 times in court for 37 offences involving similar breaches, as well as receiving a further 17 cautions.

Mark Scoggins, defending, said Severn Trent had put in process plans to replace the pipe in May 2013 and had been unable to complete the work any quicker than it did.

He said the company wished to apologise for what had happened and had already paid for the replenishment of fish stocks at the pond.

Mr Scoggins said there had been no impact on drinking water or human health from the matter.

Judge Mark Gargan said planning permission had been granted in October 2013 for the replacement of the pipe.

He said: “It seems to me from that date there is no real adequate explanation of why the matter took until August 2014.

“I form the view that looking at all the evidence before me, the defendant should have acted more quickly in replacing this pipe and therefore was negligent in failing to do so.”

Judge Gargan added that it was ‘quite remarkable’ the company had initially not sent sufficient tankers to deal with the second incident in March and it had been ‘plainly negligent’.

Severn Trent was fined £240,000 for each offence and also ordered to pay prosection costs of £13,675.38.

The money needs to be paid by the end of October.

A spokesman for Severn Trent said: “We are truly sorry for the impact our burst pipe had on the farmland and its local environment last year.

“At the time we worked closely with the Environment Agency to clean up the land affected, re-stock the fish in the river, and helped reduce the impact the burst had on the wider area. Since then we have spent nearly a quarter of a million pounds to replace the damaged pipe with a new, more robust one to prevent it from happening again.

“Over the last 12 months we’ve worked hard to improve our environmental performance across the whole of our region, and have significantly reduced the number of pollution incidents we’ve had.

“The pipe that burst was what we call a ‘rising main’, a pipe that is connected to our pumping station to pump sewage onto our treatment works. Moving forward we’re investing £21 million over the next five years to replace many of these ageing rising mains to prevent them from bursting in the first place.”