£500,000 penalty for sewage discharge at Sutton Park
Severn Trent Water Limited has been sentenced for discharging thousands of gallons of raw sewage from its sewer network onto land at Sutton Park, West Midlands.
It has been fined £500,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £50,693 and a victim surcharge of £120 over a blockage in its system.
In November 2013 the Sutton Park Visitor Centre received a report of a sewage smell and that a sewer was discharging into the Longmoor Valley. Natural England officers mapped the damage, finding that the sewage had spread across an area of 1.15 hectares. It had also entered a ditch and travelled 700 metres into the Longmoor Brook.
Severn Trent Water Ltd liaised with Natural England, the Environment Agency, Birmingham City Council and Historic England to produce a plan to remediate the site. Around 0.65 hectares of rare and sensitive plants were destroyed. Representatives from Natural England expressed concern with the progress and efficiency of the clean-up operation, which concluded in May 2014.
The judge recognised that Sutton Park is an environmentally sensitive area and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It was noted that the clean-up operation had been slow and poorly managed, but that the company had ultimately taken all necessary steps to remediate the site and made a commitment to restoring the affected area.
In mitigation, the court noted the company’s overall environmental record, that it had accepted responsibility, and that it was not a commercially motivated offence. The Environment Agency recognised Severn Trent Water’s improved environmental compliance since the incident, and that it was an industry-leading company in the Environment Performance Assessment in 2017.
Emma Johnson, Natural England’s area manager for the West Midlands, noted that the incident “is among the worst damage to a SSSI that Natural England has witnessed”. She noted that Natural England has worked closely with the Environment Agency and Severn Trent to rectify the issues and hopes to do so in the future.