1. ITV Report

Thames Water fined £2m after raw sewage kills nearly 150 fish in Oxfordshire.

  • Watch Cary Johnston's full report from Oxford Crown Court

Interviewees: Robert Davis, Environment Agency & Richard Aylard, Director, Thames Water

Thames Water has been fined £2 million after raw sewage killed around 150 fish.

Raw sewage was allowed to seep into water at Milton-Under-Wychwood, south of Chipping Norton, in August 2015.

The sewage also flooded a nearby garden.

The fine will be reduced by £200,000 if Thames Water donates £200,000 to chosen wildlife charities within 56 days.

The judge found Thames Water to have been “reckless” Credit: Environment Agency

The court heard that numerous failures in the management of a sewage pumping station operated by the company led to the pollution.

Sewage created by two villages emptied a tributary of the River Thames leading to the River Evenlode, a tributary of the River Thames, for up to 24 hours.

Judge Ross found Thames Water to have been “reckless”.

Credit: Environment Agency

Officers from the Environment Agency discovered the entire local population of almost 150 bullhead fish had been killed by the toxic waste along a 50-metre stretch of water.

A backlog of raw sewage was forced into the water from a sewer pipe that could not hold it.

The court heard Thames Water disregarded more than 800 high-priority alarms needing attention within four hours, in the six weeks before the incident.

Credit: Environment Agency

Another 300 alarms were not properly investigated, all of which would have pointed out failures with the pumping station.

Investigations by the Environment Agency revealed Thames Water was aware the pumping station failed five times in the 12 months up to and including the incident in August 2015.

Thames Water pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.

Nearly 150 fish were killed because of the pollution Credit: Environment Agency

“This incident was foreseeable and avoidable. Thames Water didn’t recognise the increased risk to the environment, ignoring or failing to respond adequately to more than 1,000 alarms.

“These streams are normally a haven for kingfishers, grey herons, brown trout and other fish and invertebrates. Sewage poured into the water for 24 hours, having a terrible impact, killing fish and other water life.

“We hope this prosecution sends a loud and clear message that the Environment Agency will not accept poor operation, management and maintenance of sewage pumping stations. Where we have evidence of offending and serious pollution incidents like here, we will take appropriate action to bring polluters to justice.

“Judge Ross said Thames Water was ‘reckless’ by taking an unacceptable level of risk with the environment. It allowed the sewage pumping station to operate withno automatically available standby pump for around 10 months in the year prior to the pollution.”

– Robert Davis, Environment Agency