Water bosses fined £375,000 for pumping raw sewage into North East river - cash goes to wildlife and environment projects

Stock picture of a duck swimming amongst raw sewage
Stock picture of a duck swimming amongst raw sewage

More than £1.5million will go to projects that help wildlife and the environment as companies pay up for breaking green laws, the Environment Agency has said.

Businesses are paying between £1,500 and £375,000 in "enforcement undertakings", in an alternative to prosecutions for breaking environmental laws by polluting rivers, breaching permit conditions that protect communities or avoiding recycling.

The money from 26 companies - including six firms paying six-figure sums - on the new list of enforcement undertakings totals £1,535,992.25.

It will go to 30 charities and projects to clean up stretches of rivers, restock waterways with native species and for community groups to invest in parkland for the public to enjoy, the Environment Agency said.

The biggest payment of £375,000 was handed over by Northumbrian Water for pumping raw sewage into a tributary of the River Tyne.

Anglian Water Services has made two separate payments of £100,000 for pollution incidents which killed fish.

Heineken UK and Kerry Ingredients also paid large sums for causing pollution incidents which killed fish, while Filippo Berio UK and Sandoz agreed six-figure payments for failing to recover or recycle packaging waste.

As well as making the payments, all the companies have accepted liability, demonstrated they have taken undertaken work to repair environmental damage they have done and invested to reduce the risk of similar breaches in the future.

The Environment Agency said its ability to accept enforcement undertakings was extended in 2015 to a wider range of issues.

The measure is used where suitable to restore the environment quickly, improve company practices and avoid longer criminal court cases, though serious cases are still prosecuted, the agency said.

Peter Kellett, legal director for the Environment Agency, said: "We take pollution incidents very seriously and the payments of £1.5 million we're announcing today are the result of our firm but fair enforcement action and will benefit people and the environment across the country.

"Enforcement undertakings allow those who commit offences to restore the environment and to take steps to prevent a recurrence.

"When appropriate, they allow a quicker resolution than a prosecution and help offenders who are prepared to take responsibility for their actions to put things right with their local communities."

Stephen Trotter, director of The Wildlife Trusts, England, said: "The principle that a polluter should make amends for the damage they've caused makes good sense.

"We all depend on a healthy environment and this positive scheme allows some natural improvements to be funded which otherwise wouldn't happen.

"Clearly it would be better if these incidents hadn't happened in the first place - but at least something positive has come out of it."

Wildlife Trusts are among the charities receiving payments, with Hertfordshire and Middlesex Wildlife Trust using the money to protect rare chalk streams and Surrey Wildlife Trust supporting projects including conserving heathlands and restoring hedges.

The companies making six-figure payments are:

:: Northumbrian Water Limited (£375,000) for pumping raw sewage into a tributary of the River Tyne.

:: Filippo Berio UK Limited (£253,906.91) for failing to recover or recycle packaging waste.

:: Anglian Water Services Limited have made two separate payments (£100,000 and £100,000) both for causing pollution incidents which killed fish.

:: Heineken UK Limited (£160,000) for causing a pollution incident which killed fish.

:: Kerry Ingredients UK Limited (£127,975) for causing a pollution incident which killed fish.

:: Sandoz Limited (£120,932.23) for failing to recover or recycle packaging waste.