Southern Water was in Canterbury Crown Court yesterday after an Environment Agency (EA) investigation found that untreated sewage was discharged into the Swalecliffe Brook, polluting a 1.2km stretch of the watercourse and killing local wildlife.
Swalecliffe Brook flows through the Thanet Coast site of special scientific interest (SSSI) before joining the north Kent coast to the east of Whitstable.
The court heard that Southern Water did not respond quickly enough to the pollution, which occurred on 21st July 2013 – just days before the Whitstable Oyster Festival – when untreated sewage discharged via the Brook Road Wastewater Pumping Station’s emergency outlet.
The pumping station had had operating problems in the week leading up to the pollution event but the company had failed to resolve them.
Environment Agency manager Alan Cansdale said: “Southern Water has acknowledged that they had sufficient warning and knowledge of the incident to minimise the impact on the local environment, but failed to act swiftly and notify partners to help this happen. This incident, and the scale of the subsequent environmental impact, was a result of inadequate urgency to recognise there was a problem at the site.”