Pollution released by Thames Water turned river black, court hears

  • By PA Media & Flaminia Luck
  • BBC News

Image source, TOBY MELVILLE

Image caption,

Thames Water will be sentenced after pumping an estimated “millions of litres” of undiluted sewage into rivers near Gatwick Airport

Thames Water discharged large amounts of waste into two rivers, killing more than 1,400 fish, a court heard.

The firm released what was understood to be “millions of litres” of undiluted sewage from treatment works near Gatwick Airport in October 2017.

In February, the supplier pleaded guilty to four charges.

The company, which serves 15 million households, will be sentenced on Tuesday as it faces concerns over its future amid mounting debt.

Lewes Crown Court heard there was a “significant and lengthy” period of polluting the Gatwick Stream and River Mole between Crawley, in West Sussex, and Horley, in Surrey.

A storm pump at Crawley Sewage Treatment Works site was unexpectedly diverting sewage to its storm tank for 21 hours and the release went “unnoticed”, the court heard.

Sailesh Mehta, prosecuting, said the sewage spill was an “accident waiting to happen”

Image source, Environment Agency

Image caption,

Environment Agency photos show some of the thousands of fish likely to have died

Eyewitness accounts read in court described how people saw the river turn “black” and “grey”, with “huge numbers of dead fish” visible in the water.

It is understood nearly 1,400 dead fish from the rivers were recovered by Environment Agency officers following the incident.

Thames Water has expressed its “unreserved and sincere apology” for the release, and said it gave “voluntary reparation” to the South East Rivers Trust amounting to £1m.

The firm, which serves households across London and Thames Valley, is in talks to secure extra funding with the government amid fears of collapse following the unexpected resignation of its chief executive on Tuesday.

Sarah Bentley stepped down over the company’s poor performance regarding sewage spills.

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