Anglian Water fined after sewage leak in Cambridgeshire river killed thousands of fish

Roach, bream, pike and European eel were killed in the incident. 
Credit: Environment Agency
The leak killed thousands of fish, including an endangered eel. Credit: Environment Agency

A water firm has been fined after a raw sewage leak killed thousands of fish in a river - including an endangered species.

On 27 December 2018, a sewer owned by Anglian Water collapsed in Stanground near Peterborough.

The water company employed contractors Danaher and Walsh to fix the problem, but several days later the solution failed and sewage ended up in Stanground Lode.

The Environment Agency found the watercourse had been polluted for 1.6km (1 mile) and that at least 2,413 fish died.

Among the species killed by the sewage was the European eel - which is currently listed as a “critically endangered” species under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

It is believed that untreated sewage could have been discharging into the river for up to 10 hours. 

Yvonne Daly, environment manager at the Environment Agency, said: “Both companies in this case failed in their environmental duties, leaving to a devastating impact on the local biodiversity.

"Moreover, they failed to notify the Environment Agency when something had gone wrong."

On 1 June at Peterborough Magistrates' Court, both companies were charged with causing an illegal sewage discharge between 5 January and 8 January 2019 which polluted the Stanground Lode.

The judge deemed there was a low level of culpability from both defendants.

Anglian Water was fined £50,000 and told to pay £24,387.58 in costs. Danaher and Walsh was fined £10,000 and told to pay £5,000 in costs.

A spokesperson for Anglian Water said: “We take our responsibilities to the natural environment very seriously, and deeply regret the incident in Stanground in 2019.

"Unfortunately, a significant amount of plastics and wet wipes stopped the pumps from working only hours after they had been thoroughly checked.

“Un-flushable items like wet wipes, sanitary items and cotton buds cause significant problems in our sewer network when they are wrongly disposed of down the drain.

"They lead to blockages and in the worst cases, pollutions to the environment like this."

Anglian Water was also fined in May after it dumped sewage in another Cambridgeshire river, killing dozens of fish.

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