Southern Water punished over ‘shocking’ wastewater spills
Southern Water has been hit with a record £126m punishment for spills of wastewater into the environment from its sewage plants, and for deliberately misreporting its performance.
Southern Water’s failings included not making necessary investment, which led to equipment failures and wastewater spills. Water regulator Ofwat also found that the company manipulated its wastewater sampling process, meaning it misreported performance information about a number of sewage treatment sites. As a result, it avoided penalties under Ofwat’s incentive regime. This is not the first time this has happened; in 2007, Ofwat fined the company £20.3m after its actions meant it could raise its prices by more than it should have done.
The Environment Agency has launched a criminal investigation, with court proceedings expected to commence soon. It stated: “We are pursuing our own criminal investigation into Southern Water due to suspected permit breaches at a number of its sites.”
Southern Water will pay a fine of £3m, and £123m to customers, meaning a rebate to customers of at least £61 each.
Southern Water’s current chief executive, Ian McAulay, commented: “We have clearly fallen far short of the expectations and trust placed in us by our wastewater customers and the wider communities we serve. We are fully committed to the fast pace of change delivered since 2017. There is a lot more work to do, but we’re pleased that this proposal agreed with Ofwat enables us to fully make amends to our customers and regain their trust as quickly as possible.”