Plymouth Crown Court heard how a combination of equipment failure and poor management led to poorly treated sewage entering the Craddock stream, downstream from its Ashill Sewage Treatment Works, near Cullompton.
The Environment Agency found pollution in the stream in September 2013 and again in December 2013 which affected a 400-metre stretch of water. These issues resulted in a breach of the permit conditions.
The Environment Agency spotted sewage fungus in the Craddock stream on 11th September 2013 and found excessive sludge in the treatment process, and blocked filters which would usually treat the sewage efficiently. The outlet channels of the works had extensive sewage fungus, which extended downstream.
A biological survey of the stream showed that the sewage had been poorly treated for at least a month, and further investigation revealed South West Water knew of the poor stream condition. Ongoing problems were observed during a visit four weeks later when the quality of the sewage remained poor.
The offences were attributed to negligence on the part of South West Water. Judge Lawrie said the pollution of the stream was present for a sufficient length of time for sewage fungus to grow and was not a passing release of effluent. He said that South West Water had failed to keep an effective watch on the maintenance and operation.
South West Water was also ordered to pay the full prosecution costs of £14,421.