Peter Glenser QC, leading Richard Bradley, prosecuted Northumbrian Water (NWL) this week on behalf of the Environment Agency. Shortly before the trial was due to start NWL pleaded guilty to causing raw sewage to pollute a water course in Heads Hope Dene in 2017. The pollution was caused by tree root ingress into a sewage pipe that was constructed in the 1920s. The blockage caused raw sewage to surcharge from a manhole and flow into the beck.

In his sentencing remarks HHJ Adkin said:

The pollution incident took place, it is thought, over 2-3 days. It is impossible to quantify how much sewage entered the water course, but what is knowns is that the pipe ( which carried a mixture of sewage and drain water) had a maximum capacity of 70L per/second or 4200L per minute. Undoubtedly 10s of thousands of L of polluted water entered the dene and was washed downstream. In a survey dated 12th December 2016 tree root ingress was found approximately 200-350 metres downstream from manhole 5101. It therefore follows that it was abundantly clear that there was a problem with tree root infestation then. The negligence of NWL was the failure to take sufficient action to ameliorate risk of surcharging before 22.5.17. There was, I’m afraid no great sense of urgency.

There was significant damage to water quality for 4 km downstream with a negative impact on the ecology for approximately 2 km downstream and a very large volume of crude sewage