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Anglian Water slapped with £2.6m fine for discharging sewage in the North Sea

The Environment Agency officers uncovered Anglian Water's monthly discharge of waste water equivalent to three Olympic swimming pools into the North Sea

Anglian Water has been fined a sum of £2.65 million by the Environment Agency (EA) for allowing untreated sewage to overflow into the North Sea.

The prosecution of the company followed a series of failures in managing and monitoring effluent at the Jaywick Water Recycling Centre in Essex.

The lack of management and alarm system for the discharges, which occurred after Anglian Water decommissioned a piece of equipment, led to untreated sewage being released into the sea.

The EA’s investigation in 2018 revealed that the monthly discharges were equivalent to more than three Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The financial penalty, which includes prosecution costs and a victim surcharge, marks the largest-ever fine imposed for environmental offences in the region,

The Jaywick Water Recycling Centre had an EA permit, which only allowed discharges during storm conditions.

However, Anglian Water’s failure to act on available data that would have alerted it to the issue has been criticised by the court.

District Judge King remarked that “more could and should have been done” to prevent this pollution and that the company had a clear pattern of not responding adequately to previous penalties.

Alan Lovell, Chair of the EA, stated that the agency’s officers were pivotal in exposing the extent of the discharges and ensuring that Anglian Water pays for its pollution.

He emphasised that the EA will not hesitate to pursue any water company that fails to uphold the law or protect nature and will continue to push for the strongest possible penalties.

The water minister, Rebecca Pow, declared that water companies must not profit from environmental damage and all fines will be paid into the Water Restoration Fund to improve the natural environment and water quality.

An Anglian Water spokesperson told ELN: “We apologise wholeheartedly for this incident. We’re very clear that one spill is one too many and we are constantly striving to improve our systems to predict, mitigate and, where possible, eliminate events like these from happening.

“On this occasion, the judge found that there was no harmful impact on the environment, so we are disappointed and confused about the level of the fine and the way it was derived.

“There is no place for spills but fines should be proportionate to the environmental impact. On this occasion, the judge agreed that there was none.”

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