A water company has been fined more than £500,000 for failing to stop raw sewage discharged into the river for nearly 24 hours, killing 5,000 fish.
About six million liters of raw sewage – the equivalent of more than two Olympic swimming pools – was discharged into the Great Ouse River in Brackley, Northamptonshire, due to a failure in Anglian Water systems.
Electrical faults caused pumps to stop just before 18:00 on May 24, 2017, and an evacuation from an emergency overflow at a pumping station.
However, failure of the early warning alarm system, which was supposed to alert staff to a problem, meant it went undetected.
The evacuation was not stopped until 17:00 the next day – after 23 hours.
Fish such as brown trout, mullet and pike were killed, as well as smaller species such as bullhead, dace, stone loach, minnow, gudgeon and 79 lamprey. Dead signal crayfish were also detected.
A dog walker spotted up to 30 dying fish carried by the river flow, panting with their bellies up or their tails up.
He also reported seeing a large trout following the riverbank, jumping out of the water and rubbing along the shore.
The pollution was found to spread about 7.5 miles downriver.
Anglian Water admitted a violation of the permit and was ordered in Peterborough magistrates’ court to pay a fine of £510,000, a cost of £50,000 and a victim surcharge of £170.
Investigating Environment Agency officials reported that they found the bed of a watercourse that drained into the river was completely lined with sewage residues, including panty liners and bumpers.
The Brackley terminal pumping station pumps sewage to be treated at the sewage works about a mile from the town of Brackley.
Environment Agency CEO Sir James Bevan said: “We welcome this statement. Serious pollution is a serious crime.
“The Environment Agency will pursue any water company that does not comply with the law or protect nature and will continue to impose the strongest possible penalties for those who do not comply.”
An Anglian Water spokesperson said: “We work tirelessly to protect and improve the environment and when such incidents occur we find it very distressing.
We know there is no room for complacency and we are absolutely committed to improving ourselves and moving forward towards achieving our zero pollution goal.”