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 South West Water fined for discharging poor quality sewage effluent

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David Harvey


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PostSubject: South West Water fined for discharging poor quality sewage effluent   Wed Apr 18, 2012 12:22 am

South West Water again!

South West Water has been ordered to pay £20,226 in fines and costs for discharging poor quality sewage effluent into the Tamar estuary.

The case was brought by the Environment Agency.

Camels Head sewage treatment works is one of five Plymouth treatment works serving a population of approximately 62,000 in the western area of the city. Effluent must be treated to certain standards laid down in the site’s environmental permit. Treated effluent is discharged into Weston Mill Lake, a tidal creek within the Devonport dockyard complex.

The discharge point is close to the Tamar estuary Special Area of Conservation and a local shellfishery.The Camels Head treatments works has been the subject of numerous complaints about odours from the site.

On February 16, 2011 South West Water reported to the Agency that an effluent sample taken six days earlier had failed the required standard and that the treatment works was continuing to discharge poor quality effluent.

An Agency officer visited the works and was told the site was experiencing a series of problems. There were longstanding problems at the inlet screens which remove bulky materials from the sewage as it enters the works. This had resulted in rags and other debris passing forward into the primary settlement tanks which, in turn, reduced the effectiveness of the biological treatment.
The situation was made worse by the fact that five out of 16 paddle aerators used in the treatment process were broken. South West Water said there had been further problems from vandalism where foreign objects had been deliberately thrown into the final treatment tanks.
As a result, the sewage had not undergone the full treatment process and the final effluent was much stronger than it should have been. The sample taken on February 10, 2011 contained four times the maximum permitted limit for suspended solids and had a biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) almost twice the maximum limit. BOD is a measure of the rate at which bacteria remove oxygen from the final effluent. The higher the BOD the greater the risk of fish and other aquatic life suffocating through oxygen starvation.

South West Water must report any effluent quality failures to the Environment Agency within 24 hours. The Agency wasn’t made aware of problems at Camels Head until 6 days after the non-compliant sample was taken. Records kept at the sewage works showed there had been problems at the site for a couple of weeks prior to February 16, 2011.

Weston Mill Lake is used by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) to train divers. The Agency was unable to alert the MOD to problems at Camels Head because of the water company’s failure to report the difficulties it was having at the works.

‘We expect water companies to take active steps to resolve problems at their sewage treatment works as soon as is practicably possible. There were many symptoms of problems at Camels Head prior to the failing sample being taken that South West Water should have acted on. The pollution could have been avoided had the company addressed the problems with the inlet screens sooner. This lack of action resulted in the Tamar estuary and nearby Special Area of Conservation being put at risk,’ said Sarah Taylor for the Environment Agency,’ said Sarah Taylor for the Environment Agency.

Appearing before Plymouth magistrates yesterday (April 16), South West Water, of Peninsula House, Rydon Lane, Exeter was fined a total of £16,000 and ordered to pay £4,211 costs after pleading guilty to four offences of discharging noxious, polluting and.. matter from Camels Head sewage treatment works, Plymouth in breach of the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010. The company was also ordered to pay a £15.00 victim surcharge.

The court acknowledged the treatment works had occassionally been targeted by vandals. Sarah Taylor emphasised that anyone engaged in vandalism should recognise their actions could interfere with the treatment process and harm the environment.
Since these pollution incidents, South West Water has agreed an action plan to improve compliance with standards at its sewage treatment works and so reduce the risk of illegal discharges from its site.

Water company fined for sewage spills near holiday beach

South West Water was today ordered to pay £9,350 in fines and costs after sewage polluted a stream near one of Cornwall's most popular surfing and bathing beaches.

The case was brought by the Environment Agency.

On June 27, 2011 there were two spills from Station Road sewage pumping station at Perranporth when crude sewage was discharged into the Bolingey stream only a short distance from Perranporth beach. The site is owned and operated by South West Water.
The weather was fine and dry and the beach would normally be busy with surfers and swimmers. The illegal discharges followed a pump failure at an adjoining sewage pumping station at Droskyn that receives sewage from the Perranporth area via the Station Road site before pumping it forward for treatment.

South West Water staff arrived at the Droskyn site on the evening of June 26 after the water company received a ‘high level’ alarm. They discovered a mechanical failure had caused the duty pump to stop working and that the standby pump was partially blocked and not operating at full capacity. This had caused flows at Station Road to back-up and sewage to be discharged into the Bolingey stream.
The two spills occurred early in the morning and shortly before mid-day. It is estimated several hundred thousand litres of crude sewage were lost from the site in that time.

South West Water didn’t alert the Agency until some 12 hours after the first spill by which time it was impossible to assess the environmental impact of the spills as the discharges had stopped.The company’s site supervisor claimed it would have taken too long to get tankers to Perranporth to tanker the sewage away and that the pumps would have been repaired by the time they arrived.
‘South West Water had sufficient advance warning to put the necessary measures in place to prevent these discharges occurring. These could have included tankering away sewage from this site that only has limited storage capacity. Its failure to reduce the rising levels of sewage resulted in an avoidable spillage of crude sewage to a high profile bathing beach on a fine summer’s day,’ said Andrew Blewett for the Environment Agency.

Appearing before Truro magistrates, South West Water, of Peninsula House, Rydon Lane, Exeter, was fined £7,500 and ordered to pay £1,850 costs after pleading guilty to discharging a poisonous, noxious or polluting matter to an inland freshwater without a permit, an offence under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010. The company was also ordered to pay a £15.00 victim surcharge.
This is the second prosecution of South West Water in as many days. On Monday (April 16) the company was fined £16,000 for discharging poor quality sewage effluent into the Tamar estuary.
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