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Anglian Water fined £350,000 following sewer burst

Anglian Water have been fined £350,000 after a pumped sewer burst for the sixth time in several years.

Environment Agency officers were called to Bourn Brook at Caldecott in Cambridgeshire in September 2019 after sewage pumped out of the sewer. The incident took place close to the Bourn Water Recycling Centre which is owned and operated by Anglian Water.

On September 10, 2019, Anglian Water were notified by a member of the public that sewage was overflowing. The sewage was going onto a bridleway and into a ditch which was a tributary of the Bourn Brook.

The water company reported the incident to the Environment Agency. Officers visited the scene and took samples from the water after it was found that sewage from the sewer had begun to enter nearby Bourn Brook.

Officers found ammonia and low oxygen levels in the water, posing a potential risk to wildlife at the site. Despite efforts from Anglian Water to stop the polluted water from spreading, its methods proved insufficient. In total 4 kilometres of the watercourse was affected for at least 5 days.

Since 2004 the sewer, which is only 1.5 kilometres long, had burst 6 times. The court found that Anglian Water had been too slow in putting in place potential mitigation measures. They only located air valves, designed to reduce stress on the sewer, after the incident took place. These valves had been in place for at least 25 years.

Jeremy Hay, Senior Environment Officer, for the Environment Agency said:

"Anglian Water should have done more to prevent this sewer from bursting in the first place. Sewage pollution can be devastating to human health, local biodiversity and our environment.

Companies must invest in their infrastructure to avoid pollution such as this. Members of the public with concerns about pollution should call our incident hotline on 0800 807060."

Anglian Water appeared at Cambridge Magistrates Court on October 12. It was charged with causing poisonous, noxious, or polluting matter to enter inland freshwaters without an environmental permit. This is contrary to regulations 12(1)(b) and 38(1)(a) of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016.

In sentencing, District Judge Ken Sheraton found that there had been “no effective surveys” of the pipe in question. He went on to say that had there been surveys, the 2 air valves would have been noticed.

The water company pleaded guilty to the offence and were fined £350,000 and told to pay £28,025.66 in costs as well as a victim surcharge of £181

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