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Southern Water in court over historic environmental violations

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Original article from Kent Live

Southern water has appeared in Canterbury Crown Court this week for sentencing after pleading guilty to a litany of historic environmental violations.

The company is responsible for treating waste water across the south of England, but recently has hit the news after releases of sewage made several Thanet beaches unsafe for the public to swim.

The charges, brought under the Water Resources Act and Environmental Permitting Regulations, cover a series of unpermitted discharges from 2010 to 2015, which Southern Water pleaded guilty to in March 2020.

Read more: Investigation after second Southern Water sewage discharge in a month

The sentencing hearing itself will dictate how large a fine the company will be ordered to pay, and began on Tuesday (July 6).

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It is expected to finish on Friday (July 9).

It is only a few weeks since Southern Water ejected a large amount of sewage in Thanet, leaving beaches from Margate's Main Sands to Stone Bay closed as sanitary towels and wet wipes washed up on north Kent's shores.

Earlier this year a similar situation occurred, with sewage being released into Joss Bay in February, due to a 'fault' at the Broadstairs pumping station.

This series of incidents have sparked local outrage, as protests organised by ACORN Margate in June targeted the company's practices in Kent.

Protestors gathered at council offices to demonstrate against Southern Water's releases of sewage onto local beaches.

The repeat spillages were criticised as a "huge threat to public health" by the protest's organisers, as well as being highlighted as having hit local businesses by driving down tourist traffic.

South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay even took to Twitter after the incident, expressing his irritation at the situation.

With sentencing expected to be concluded by the end of this week, a look back at past precedent may shed light on what the resulting fine may look like.

Fines issued in 2019 by Ofwat – the Water Services Regulation Authority – saw the company ordered to pay out £123m, with £91m of this sum being ringfenced for compensating customers for misconduct.

This remains the largest fine ever issued by the regulator.

Regardless of the size of the fine issued as a result of the sentencing, it remains clear that Southern Water's chequered past in processing Kent's water will not be ignored – by local residents or regulators.

Original Article