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Thames Water fined £3.3m for pumping millions of litres of sewage into rivers near Gatwick

Thames Water has been fined £3.3 million for a “reckless” incident in which millions of litres of undiluted sewage was pumped into rivers near Gatwick Airport in 2017.

A two-day sentencing hearing at Lewes Crown Court was told there was a “significant and lengthy” period of polluting the Gatwick Stream and River Mole between Crawley in West Sussex and Horley in Surrey on October 11 2017.

Judge Christine Laing KC said that said she believed Thames Water had shown a “deliberate attempt” to mislead the Environment Agency over the incident, such as by omitting water readings and submitting a report to the regulator denying responsibility.

Thames Water had pleaded guilty on 28 February to four charges relating to illegally discharging waste in October 2017.

This penalty comes as the utility giant, which serves 15 million households across London and Thames Valley, faces concerns over its future amid mounting debt.

The record fine against a water company for illegal discharge of sewage is held by Southern Water at £90 million for nearly 7,000 incidents across Hampshire, Kent and Sussex in a case brought by the Environment Agency in 2021.

Thames Water’s fine is likely to fuel outrage at the state of UK rivers, which has been widely covered in i‘s Save Britain’s Rivers campaign.

Only 14 per cent of UK rivers are in “good” ecological status, according to the Environment Agency, while a House of Commons committee report last year concluded that no river in England was free from chemical contamination.

Meanwhile, there were at least 375,000 river sewage spills in England and Wales last year, according to an analysis of Environment Agency data by Top of the Poops.

And last week Thames Water boss, Sarah Bentley, resigned with immediate effect shortly after giving up her bonus over the company’s sewage spills.

A day later, it emerged that Thames Water was in danger of collapsing under a £14 billion debt pile.

Sources in regulator Ofwat have insisted that Thames Water, the UK’s largest provider, is a ‘long way’ from a need for renationalistion but a Government minister on Thursday last week felt moved to reassure customers that taps will continue to flow whatever the outcome of the company’s ongoing efforts to raise new funds from investors.

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