Welsh Water Ltd has been fined £90,000 for breaking conditions of an environmental permit at a sewage treatment works near Hereford.

Welsh Water entered a guilty plea at Worcester Crown Court on Friday (June 7) and was fined for exceeding permitted levels of sewage effluent into the River Wye from the Kingstone and Madley sewage treatment works.

The company was also ordered to pay costs of £14,085.05 and a £190 surcharge.

The court was told that officers from the Environment Agency were alerted to an issue following routine sampling results in July 2021.

The environmental permit states that during monthly sampling visits, Welsh Water must not discharge effluent containing more than seven milligrams per litre of biochemical oxygen demand on more than two occasions in a 12-month period.

From 6 August 2020 to 19 June 2021, the sampling system showed that Welsh Water allowed levels to exceed the permitted levels on three occasions.

On 8 August 2020, the levels were recorded at 13 milligrams per litre; on 19 May 2021, levels were recorded at 74 milligrams per litre; and 19 June 2021 levels, were recorded at 41 milligrams per litre.

‘Poor management’

The court was told that such levels indicated that the treatment works was performing very poorly and that it was extremely unusual to have this many breaches in a 12-month period.

A report concluded that this showed “either poor operational management, inadequate asset provision or a mixture of both.”

Welsh Water, in mitigation, said on the first two occasions, it could not identify a “root cause” for the permit breaches.  

On the third occasion, the company said the breach had occurred during a “significant storm.”

Senior environment officer at the Environment Agency, Adam Shipp, led the investigation for the agency.

“Incidents like this are preventable and are completely unacceptable. Water companies are aware that their activities have the potential for serious environmental impacts, and they know that we will take action when they cause pollution,” he said.