Water company fined for polluting Burnley river

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A water company has been fined £33,000 after a water main burst causing silt to enter a Burnley river.

United Utilities admitted one charge of causing a water discharge into Green Brook, a tributary of the River Calder, near Padiham, without an Environmental Permit, which is contrary to the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010.

Burnley Magistrates’ Court also ordered the company to pay £4,174.22 costs and a £120 victim surcharge.

Prosecutors for the Environment Agency told magistrates that investigators were called to reports of grey, muddy water entering Green Brook on October 23rd 2012.

The pollution was traced upstream to a location just off Lower Rosegrove Lane, where water was surcharging out of the ground, running over a field and footpath, entering a reed bed and overflowing into the brook.

The agency contacted the company three times on October 23rd, 24th and 25th to confirm the incident and request action and found the response inadequate. After assessing the risk, engineers decided to shut the main off and it was repaired on the night of October 25th.

The incident affected a substantial stretch of Green Brook and also part of the River Calder. The visual impact could be seen at the confluence of Green Brook with the River Calder and the agency received telephone calls from concerned members of the public and the fishing community during the last week of the salmon season.

Speaking after the case, United Utilities’ water services director Mr Duncan Smith apologised for the incident and said, as an important trunk main, the burst pipe had to be shut down and repaired in a controlled and planned way to safeguard supplies to thousands of Burnley homes and businesses.

“Although there is no evidence of any harm to the environment we’re sorry this incident spoiled people’s enjoyment of local rivers. We take our environmental responsibilities very seriously. We repaired the pipe as quickly as we could in line with our internal processes, but we accept that communication with the Environment Agency could have been better and we have re-briefed staff on how to handle incidents like this in the future.”

Magistrates gave United Utilities credit for an early guilty plea.