Southern Water - record fine for polluting

25th Jun 2019

Although Hutchinson deals with off-mains wastewater treatment, we do have an interest in how water and wastewater treatment companies perform. Wesupply and install raw sewage pump stations and mains that take our customers’ wastewater to those municipal treatment plants but our greater interest is because of how what they do influences the behaviour of others who discharge treated wastewater in to the environment. And, to be blunt, this is great news – not for the environment, of course, but because it makes polluters sit up and take notice.

We come across new sites every day where poorly treated and untreated sewage is being discharged in to the environment. Recently we’ve been seeing lots of septic tanks serving single- or small groups of houses, due to imminent the “2020 regulation” in England and Wales, to be told – often proudly - by the property owners that “We’ve been here 30-odd years and we’ve never had it emptied, it’s never been a problem!” and “The tank’s not causing any damage, why all this fuss over nothing?”

Well, the “fuss” isn’t over nothing and just because your drains have never backed up doesn’t mean that your wastewater system is problem-free. I’m sure that many of Southern Water’s customers’ drains never backed up, and the “fuss” is to do with not polluting the environment and not causing public health issues, as Southern Water knew all along and for which the company has now rightly been punished.

Being off-mains often means living in the countryside, sometimes within earshot of a stream or within sight of a mountain with a lake at its foot, or surrounded by rolling farmland but, wherever it is, we all have a duty to protect and preserve that environment, if not for our own continued benefit then certainly for the benefit of others and future generations. If you or your children like a swim in a lake or a paddle in a stream at the weekend or on your holidays, have a think about what’s been put into that water further upstream. If you own a hotel or a caravan park or camp site and want people to continue to stay with your business because of the beauty of the surroundings then think about how you treat your wastewater is impacting that beauty – or to put it more bluntly for some whose only measure of value is monetary, how your lack of responsibility is impacting your future income stream.

“Ofwat found that Southern Water failed to operate a number of wastewater treatments works properly, including by not making the necessary investment which led to equipment failures and spills of wastewater into the environment.”

““Today’s announcement should also serve as a reminder to all other companies about the gravity of their responsibilities to society and the environment and that we will take action if they neglect them.”

If you have off-mains wastewater treatment plant (and that includes a septic tank and a drainage field) you are an operator and you should make the necessary investment to avoid equipment failures in order to avoid discharging poorly treated wastewater in to the environment - or putmore honestly, polluting that environment.You may be beyond the reach of Ofwat but the Environment Agency said in a statement following the announcement "We are pursuing our own criminal investigation into Southern Water due to suspected permit breaches at a number of its sites.”

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