Water company fined for offences at sewage treatment works

South West Water has been ordered to pay £11,406 in fines and costs for discharging poor quality effluent into a Devon river. The case was brought by the Environment Agency. The water company’s sewage works at Lee Mill near Plymouth receives and treats sewage from homes and businesses in the surrounding area. Treated effluent is discharged into the River Yealm, an important fishery for salmon and sea trout. There is also a shellfishery further downstream.

The effluent, which undergoes biological treatment, must be of a certain quality before it is discharged from the treatment works. The precise standard is laid down in the Environment Agency permit for the site. Levels of ammonia, suspended solids and biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) must be kept within certain limits to minimise any impact on the environment.

Over a 12 month period from January 28, 2011 samples of treated final effluent at Lee Mill exceeded permitted levels on five occasions and were found to be of an unacceptable standard. These breaches included samples containing excessive biochemical oxygen demand and suspended solids.

‘Operators of sewage treatment works must make every effort to remain compliant with their permits. This is especially important where effluent is discharged into catchments like the River Yealm that hold important numbers of salmon and sea trout. These fish are more susceptible to pollution and need much cleaner water than other species,’ said Ted Pritchard for the Environment Agency. Appearing before Plymouth magistrates, South West Water of Peninsula House, Rydon Lane, Exeter was fined a total of £10,000 and ordered to pay £1,406 costs after pleading guilty to five offences of breaching a condition of its permit at Lee Mill sewage treatment works contrary to Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010. The case was heard on March 19, 2012. Read the full story on the Environment Agency website…