United Utilities fined £14,000

United Utilities has been fined £14,000 for a serious water pollution incident in July 2009 that caused the death of more than 6,000 fish at Three Pools Waterway, Southport.

The company pleaded guilty to a prosecution brought by the Environment Agency at North Sefton Magistrates’ Court, and was also ordered to pay the Agency’s costs of £7,863.

According to the Environment Agency, the incident occurred as a result of failure of the foul water pumps at the Crowland Street pumping station.

The pollution caused the oxygen levels in the watercourse to fall and ammonia contained in the sewage is toxic to fish. 

A spokesperson from the Environment Agency said: ‘This was a major incident that had a devastating impact on the fish population. United Utilities owns and operates the sewer network throughout the region and is responsible for resolving any problems with this system. This incident caused significant damage to the environment, which could have been avoided or considerably reduced if the company had correctly reset a pump when it responded to an alarm.’

The seriousness of the incident has meant that it is also subject to the Environmental Damage (Prevention and Remediation) (England) Regulations 2009. The regulations came into effect on 1 March 2009 and look to remediate any serious environmental damage. 

The aim of remediation under the regulations is to achieve the same level of natural resource or service as would have existed if the damage had not occurred and includes compensatory remediation to compensate for the interim losses pending full recovery. The company was served with a liability notice as part of the regulations procedure.