Repeated breaches of environmental standards at the Tunbridge Wells North Waste Water Treatment Works have led to Southern Water paying out over £57,000 in fines and costs.
The water supplier has a permit to discharge treated effluent from the Tunbridge Wells North works to the Somerhill Stream, which runs from Robingate Wood in High Brooms, through Southborough and into Tonbridge.
But the Environment Agency (EA) found that the amount of bio-chemical oxygen demand (BOD) in the effluent had surpassed the maximum allowance five separate times between July 2013 and July 2014.
Too much BOD has put the stream’s wildlife at risk, reducing the oxygen content in the water, which is a necessary resource for fish and plant survival.
Southern Water pleaded guilty to the charges and agreed to pay costs to the Environment Agency of £33,218.
With the stream’s water quality officially graded as poor by the EA, their Environment Specialist, Robert Kenway, emphasised the importance of cases like this in ensuring the safety of public water:
“We have to enforce these rules because, while there are no dead fish floating down the stream right now, over a long period these things add up.”
And ultimately, he argues, this is a victory for the public:
“By taking forward a prosecution like this, we force them [Southern Water] to improve their game, which they certainly have done.”
In mitigation, Southern Water stated that they had already spent £360,000 on improvement to the treatment works and a further £6million was planned for the future.
This verdicts follows a series of rulings against Southern Water in recent years.
In September 2015, they were fined £160,000 for pumping raw sewage into the sea, resulting in the closure of Southwick and Ferring beaches to protect the public.
In November 2014, they were ordered to pay £500,000 after again discharging untreated sewage, this time into Swalecliffe Brook, killing hundreds of fish and eels.