A LEGAL battle over smelly sewage has prompted the development of a new code of practice for odour control at sewage works, water companies said this week.
The code will aim to help water companies avoid legal action from local authorities concerned about sewage treatment smells.
News of the initiative broke as Thames Water lost the latest stage of a long running legal battle with the London Borough of Hounslow over smells from Mogden sewage treatment works.
The Thames Water case began in July 2001 when Hounslow served an abatement notice on the company demanding it reduce odours from the Mogden sewage treatment works.
The notice was served under the provisions of the 1990 Environmental Protection Act, but Thames had argued that the legislation did not cover sewage treatment works.
A magistrates court ruling in Thames' favour was overturned by the High Court following an appeal by Hounslow Council last May (NCE 5 June 2003).
The High Court ruling upheld Hounslow's claim that the sewage works was covered by the Environmental Protection Act and that the odour was a statutory nuisance.
'The water industry is aware of the potential implications of the Thames case and has set up an odour control focus group to avoid causing statutory nuisance, ' said Water UK policy advisor Steve Ntifo.
The focus group is advising the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) which is producing a new code of practice.
The code will contain guidelines for best practice when dealing with sewage odours for water companies, environmental health officers and the Environment Agency.
Thames Water now plans to fight the original abatement notice before local magistrates.
'We are appealing the case on substantive grounds as we feel that we are already employing the best practicable means to reduce odours, ' said a Thames Water spokesman.
Residents expressed frustration at Thames' continued fight .
'We understand that the company is now going to appeal against the original abatement notice, ' said Mogden Residents Action Group chairman, Hanifa Dobson.
'This is frankly laughable given the history of failures at the plant over the past decade, ' he said.
Thames Water carried out a £6M programme last summer to reduce odours at the plant and said this week that it was seeking a further £5M to carry out additional work on storm tanks and inlet works at the site.