Yorkshire water fined for releasing sewage into the River Calder

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Yorkshire Water has been fined £12,000 at Huddersfield Magistrates’ Court after a mechanical failure at its pumping station discharged sewage into the River Calder.

The water utility company was also ordered to pay full costs of £913.42 to the Environment Agency, which brought the case, and ordered to pay a £15 victim surcharge.

Nigel Augustin, prosecuting for the Environment Agency, told the court that Yorkshire Water first notified the Environment Agency of a discharge of sewage in the River Calder from the Upper Brighouse sewage treatment works on 14 June 2011.

An Environment Agency officer attended the scene and saw no impact on the watercourse and could not verify the extent of the pollution.

Yorkshire Water holds a consent to discharge, which allows it to discharge settled sewage in an emergency at Huddersfield sewage treatment works into the River Calder.

The discharge can only happen when the sewage pumping station has stopped working because of a power failure or mechanical breakdown of duty and standby pumps.

On 18 July 2011 Yorkshire Water were sent written questions under caution. They said that the pumping station in question was designed to have three pumps, a duty, assist and standby pump. They said that in this case, only two pumps were present and neither worked. The standby pump had been sent away for repair, the duty pump failed because of an electrical fault, and the assist pump failed mechanically.

Yorkshire Water acknowledged that a standby pump was not in place, but claimed that it was extreme for both pumps to fail at the same time. It said that the cause of the incident was the electrical and mechanical failures of the pumps and that, in accordance with the consent, the discharge should be deemed consented to.

In mitigation, Yorkshire Water said it had no intention to cause the discharge, and there was no or little environmental damage caused. The company said action was taken to stop the discharge before the arrival of an Environment Agency officer at the scene.

Speaking after the case, Dave Tempest, environment officer at the Environment Agency, said: “This case shows why it is important to have back-up pumps in place in case of an emergency. It is important for industry to comply with its consents, which are there to limit harm and damage to the environment. We’ll continue to work closely with water companies to reduce pollution and improve water quality.”

Anyone who sees pollution should phone the Environment Agency’s incident hotline on 0800 807060.