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Thames Water loses raw sewage fines appeal in Beckenham
A JUDGE has rejected Thames Water’s attempt to reduce the amount of compensation it must pay to people who had raw sewage leaking into their Beckenham homes.
The utility company was appealing fines totalling £204,000 imposed in 2011 by Bromley Magistrates’ Court for letting the human waste flood homes, gardens and a stream in Wimborne Way and St James Avenue.
Over a period of two months, from February to April 2003, raw sewage repeatedly escaped from the local sewer system into properties, a street and into St James’s Stream.
The court found Thames Water failed to take steps to bring the situation under control and the court also heard there had been previous sewage flooding affecting residents.
At Southwark Crown Court, Judge Anthony Leonard, sitting with two justices, rejected Thames Water’s appeal.
He also upheld the fines and increased the amount the company must pay its victims - from £2,000 to £3,000 for a homeowner impacted by the sewage and from £250 to £1,000 to an allotment holder.
The court also ordered Thames Water to pay the Environment Agency’s appeal costs of more than £10,000.
An Environment Agency spokesman said: “This is the latest in a 10-year litigation saga, during which Thames Water went to the High Court three times and the European Court of Justice once, to try to escape legal liability for the consequences of the escape of untreated sewage from their sewers into residential properties and over allotments.
“Apart from the fines and compensation totalling £208,015, Thames Water had to pay another £206,000 to cover the Environment Agency’s legal costs for their various unsuccessful legal proceedings.
“It is estimated the 10-year case has cost Thames Water over £750,000 when its own legal costs are included.”
A Thames Water spokesman said: “We deeply regret any impact on our customers or the environment caused by sewage escaping from our 68,000-mile network of sewers.
“In this case we appealed the original fines imposed by the Bromley magistrates as we felt they failed to take into account our mitigating actions during the period concerned.
“We lost this appeal and we accept the court’s decision.”
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