As a result of an unauthorised sewage discharge, Yorkshire Water has submitted an Enforcement Undertaking to the Environment Agency proposing a charitable donation totalling £1m, which is the largest ever accepted by the Agency.
The sewage discharge came from Hookstone Road combined sewer overflow, which polluted Hookstone Beck near Harrogate.
Hookstone Road combined sewer overflow has an environmental permit which allows a discharge into the beck when the storm sewage facility is full due to rainfall or snow melt.
On 31 August 2016 the Environment Agency received a report of pollution in Hookstone Beck. Investigating officers traced it to the overflow at Hookstone Road, which had blocked and not alerted Yorkshire Water due to faulty telemetry equipment.
The investigation found that almost 1,500 fish had been killed and water quality affected for 2.5km downstream. A series of further blockages and discharges took place in the following months.
The water company has paid £500,000 to Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and £500,000 to Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust. It has also completed a significant £1.85million sewer network upgrade in the area as part of the enforcement terms.
Claire Barrow, Environment Agency Area Environment Manager in Yorkshire, said:
“We always consider enforcement options on a case by case basis and Enforcement Undertakings allow companies to put right what went wrong and contribute to environmental improvements and outcomes.
“This significant £1million civil sanction will be invested back into the local area to enhance the environment for people and wildlife.
“The Environment Agency investigation also led to significant improvements to the sewer network in this area to prevent repeat incidents and ensure future compliance with environmental requirements.”
Water Minister Robbie Moore said:
“This record penalty paid by Yorkshire Water demonstrates that those who damage our natural environment will be held to account.
“Our Plan for Water is all about delivering more investment, stronger regulation and tougher enforcement right across the water sector – and this penalty for Yorkshire Water demonstrates that we will take robust action when required.
“Our Plan includes scrapping the cap on civil penalties by introducing unlimited fines and significantly broadening their scope to target a much wider range of offences – from breaches of storm overflow permits to the reckless disposal of hazardous waste.”