Yorkshire Water Services Ltd has been fined £600,000 after an ageing sewage pipe burst and killed hundreds of fish.
The court heard that sometime on or before 5 October 2013, a rising main sewage pipe from the company’s Shay Lane pumping station burst and raw sewage flowed into Drain Beck, which feeds a fishing lake in Walton Park that itself flows into the Barnsley Canal.
Over the following days more than 860 dead fish were removed from the lake and the canal, which are stocked by the Walton Angling Club. Many more fish were either eaten by gulls or sank to the bottom of the deep lake, so the exact number of fish killed is not known. Water samples confirmed that the pollution was significant enough to be fatal to aquatic life.
In April 2014, a survey found that the main lake and canal were almost devoid of fish. The survey concluded that restoration would take many years. In March 2015 the lake had sufficiently recovered for a restocking programme to begin, paid for by Yorkshire Water, but it will be a number of years before the fishery recovers to its pre-incident condition.
The court heard that there had been four bursts on this rising main in the previous two years, and on each occasion Yorkshire Water had put the failure down to age deterioration of the pipe.
Environment Agency environment management team leader Mark West said: “Utility companies have a responsibility to properly manage their infrastructure and ensure that their operations do not put the environment at unnecessary risk.
“This pollution incident had a significant impact on the ecology of the lake and the canal and it could have been avoided had the company taken action to replace the pipe following earlier bursts.”
A Yorkshire Water spokesperson said: “Protecting the environment is of crucial importance to Yorkshire Water and our pollution performance has been recognised by the Environment Agency as industry leading. This was also acknowledged by the judge in his summing up of the Shay Lane case.
“The judgement in no way reflects the performance of Yorkshire Water as a whole and we are deeply sorry about the incident in Shay Lane in Walton. We work every day to manage our water environment across Yorkshire and we care a great deal when our assets don’t perform as we would expect.
“We began on site in Walton in November to invest around £1M to replace the pipe which burst and caused this incident to try to avoid this happening again.”