Anglian Water fined over raw sewage leak which killed 5,000 fish in Northamptonshire river

More than 5,000 fish were killed after a sewage discharged in the River Great Ouse.
More than 5,000 fish were killed after a sewage discharged in the River Great Ouse. Credit: Environment Agency

A water firm has been fined more than £500,000 for failing to stop raw sewage being pumped into a Northamptonshire river for 23 hours.

Around six million litres of raw sewage – the equivalent of more than two Olympic swimming pools - was discharged into the River Great Ouse at Brackley in May 2017 by Anglian Water.

The pollution was found to have stretched 12 kilometres down river, killing around 5,000 fish.

Anglian Water pleaded guilty to a breach of permit and was ordered to pay a fine of £510,000, costs of £50,000 and a victim surcharge of £170 at Peterborough Magistrates’ Court.

Andrew Raine, from the Environment Agency, said: “The environmental impact of this pollution was substantial, resulting in a large-scale fish kill and affecting 12km of the upper River Great Ouse.

“Polluters should always be held to account, and, as much as our resources allow, we will always investigate significant pollution incidents and bring those responsible before the courts.

“We are grateful that the level of fine acknowledges the damage to the river ecosystems that this sewage spill from Anglian Water has caused.”

Raw sewage poured into the River Great Ouse for around 23 hours. Credit: Environment Agency

The discharge, from the emergency overflow at the pumping station, started just before 6pm on 24 May in 2017 and was not stopped until around 5pm the next day - 23 hours later.

Electrical faults caused the pumps to stop. Then a failure of the early warning alarm system, put in place to alert Anglian Water staff of an issue, meant the discharge went unnoticed.

Fish including brown trout, chub and pike were killed, as well as smaller species such as bullhead, dace, stone loach, minnow, gudgeon and 79 brook lampreys. Dead signal crayfish were also observed.

An Anglian Water spokesperson said: “We take our duty of care to the environment incredibly seriously and deeply regret any negative impact when things go wrong.

"We work tirelessly to protect and enhance the environment, and find it deeply distressing when incidents like this occur.

"We know there’s no room for complacency, and we’re absolutely determined to improve further and progress towards achieving our zero pollutions goal.”

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