Southern Water faces prosecution by the Environment Agency after Ofwat, the Water Services Regulation Authority, imposed a record £126m penalty over “shocking” failures at the company’s sewage treatment sites that polluted rivers and beaches in southern England.
Southern Water is the private utility company responsible for the public wastewater collection and treatment in Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, West Sussex, East Sussex and Kent, and for the public water supply and distribution in approximately half of this area. The company is owned by the Greensands consortium of infrastructure investors and pension funds.
The giant water firm has come under fire due to misreported information about the performance of a number of sewage treatment sites. Other failings by Southern Water included not making the necessary investment, which led to equipment failures and spills of wastewater, and regulator Ofwat also found the company manipulated its wastewater sampling process.
This is not the first time that the company has faced backlash, with Ofwat previously fining the company £20.3m in 2007, after its actions meant it could raise its prices by more than it should have done. The company is as a result now under criminal investigation by the Environment Agency. They face a fine of £126m, of which £123m will be paid back to customers in rebaits of £61 over 4 years.
In a conversation with the Daily Echo, Rachel Fletcher, the Head of Water Regulation at Ofwat, said that “What we found in this case is shocking.” Meanwhile, Chief Executive of Southern Water Ian McAulay admitted to the Echo that “there was dishonesty” and that he finds the situation “incredibly disappointing”.