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Thames Water fined record £20.3m for massive sewage spill


Thames Water has been ordered to pay a record fine of £20.3m for repeatedly allowing untreated sewage to flow into the Thames.
It is the largest penalty handed to a water utility company for an environmental disaster after the Thames was polluted with 1.4 billion litres of raw sewage.
The fine comes after the untreated effluent entered the waterway in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire over several months in 2013 and 2014.
The discharge left people and farm livestock ill and killed fish and other animals living in the river, putting anglers and fishermen out of business.
Thames Water admitted 13 breaches of environmental laws over discharges from sewage treatment works in Aylesbury, Didcot, Henley and Little Marlow, and a pumping station at Littlemore during the case at Aylesbury Crown Court.

It also pleaded guilty to a further charge on 17 March over a lesser discharge from an unmanned sewage treatment plant at Arborfield in Berkshire in September 2013.
Handing down the fine, which is ten times higher than a one paid by Southern Water in 2016, Judge Francis Sheridan said: "This is a shocking and disgraceful state of affairs. It should not be cheaper to offend than take appropriate action."
The judge said at a hearing last week that he had to ensure the fine was "sufficiently large that they (Thames) get the message".
He added: "What a dreadful state of affairs that is.
"Logbook entries reflected the pathetic state of affairs and the frustration of employees.
"Thames Water utilities continually failed to report to the Environment Agency despite (managers) being fully aware of the issues and reporting governance."
He later said of the firm: "There is a history of non-compliance."
The fine amounts to two weeks of the company's profit.

The judge said that, on several occasions, Thames Water managers ignored warnings and "risks identified by employees and others" and in some cases, staff recorded a "failure waiting to happen".
Anne Brosnan, the Environment Agency's chief prosecutor, said: "Thames Water was completely negligent to the environmental dangers created by the parlous state of its works.
"Our investigation revealed that we were dealing with a pattern of unprecedented pollution incidents which could have been avoided if Thames Water had been open and frank with the Environment Agency as required by water company industry protoco

The agency's chief executive Sir James Bevan added: "This case sends a clear signal to the industry that safeguarding the environment is not an optional extra, it is an essential part of how all companies must now operate."
Richard Aylard, External Affairs Director of Thames Water, said outside the court: "We have failed in our responsibility to the environment and that hurts both personally and professionally because we do care.
"We've also failed in our responsibility to our customers, who pay us to provide an essential public service all the time, every day and not just some of the time, and we apologise for all of those failings.
"But in the three years since the last of those incidents we have learnt our lesson - there have been sweeping, far-reaching changes across the waste water business.

"That has included more people, more and better systems and more investments, and that is beginning to pay off.
"Our performance has improved considerably and we're also doing a lot of work which we're proud of in partnership with environmental groups across our area, working to improve rivers and not just get them back to where they should be."
He insisted customers will not face an increase in prices and added: "This fine will be paid in full by shareholders only."
Thames's previous record fine for pollution was £1million, paid in January 2016.
This latest penalty is the biggest since Southern Water was ordered to pay £2m in December 2016 for polluting the beach at Margate in Kent in 2012.


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