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Southern Water in court over sewage spill charges

Southern Water has appeared in court over allegations of more than 8,000 sewage breaches, including at seven treatment plants in Kent, over five years.

The company, which is responsible for collecting and treating wastewater in Kent as well as several other counties, attended Maidstone Magistrates' Court today to faces 51 charges, alleged to have been committed between 2010 and 2015.

Sewage gushes out of a drain. Stock picture
Sewage gushes out of a drain. Stock picture

The Environment Agency launched a criminal investigation into the company and the company entered no plea at court today.

Andrew Marshall, for the prosecution, said 8,400 unlawful and non-compliant incidents of sewage "escaping" the plants had occurred at 17 sites, 4,000 of which had lasted for more than an hour.

In Kent the breaches are alleged to have occurred at sites in Whitstable, The Swale, Sittingbourne, Herne Bay and The Isle of Sheppey.

Southern Water faces 46 charges of contravening the requirements of an environmental permit and five charges of cause poisonous/noxious/polluting matter/waste to enter controlled waters.

Southern Water chief executive Ian McAuley joined the company in 2017
Southern Water chief executive Ian McAuley joined the company in 2017

A spokesman for the company said: "In June 2019 we announced that the Environment Agency was investigating the company for possible permit breaches at some of our wastewater treatment works.

"We will be as open and transparent as possible and are committed to cooperating to ensure a speedy conclusion and resolution of the case.

"The charges cover historic events alleged to have taken place between 2010 and 2015. Since he joined in 2017, Chief Executive Ian McAulay has been driving thorough internal reviews of our wastewater business and is leading a major transformation programme."

The case will next be heard at Maidstone Crown Court on March 11.

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