Thames Water has been fined £3.3 million over a “reckless” incident where “million of litres” of undiluted sewage was pumped into rivers.
Lewes Crown Court heard at a two day sentencing hearing that there was a “significant and lengthy” period of pollution in rivers near Gatwick Airport in 2017.
The Gatwick Stream and River Mole which is between Crawley and Horley, Surrey on 11 October, 2017.
Judge Christine Laing KC said the she believes Thames Water showed a “deliberate attempt” by misleading the Environment Agency by denying any responsibility as they omitted water readings.
Thames Water denied that they misled the Environment Agency, but did plea guilty to four charges to illegally discharging waste in 2017.
The Crown Court was told that a storm pump had unexpectedly activated that then filled up the storm tank, even though at the time there was no substantial rainfall for some 21 hours.
This then led to sewage spilling into the two rivers for around six hours, they estimated and furthermore the court was told that the lead technician was uncontactable as the person was waiting for a new mobile phone.
Judge Laing KC said that she finds it “utterly extraordinary” that environmental disasters can occur as a result of such issues.
Thames Water has previously been handed 20 fines for pollution spillage along with the a record fine prior to the incident in 2017.
Judge Laing KC added, “They should have put in every effort into tidying up the problem areas.”