Kent Messenger Maidstone

Fined for spilling sewage in stream

No rain shown on weather records

- By Chris Hunter

WHEN Environmen­t Agency of­fi­cers were called out to in­spect a stream near a Kent vil­lage last year, they found fish gasp­ing for breath in water choked with sewage.

Many more fish in Ham­mer Stream, Bid­den­den, were al­ready dead and a sub­se­quent sur­vey found 275 dead fish – in­clud­ing bull­head, stone loach and stick­le­backs – in streams lead­ing to the Beult.

The cause was traced to a sewage spill from the South­ern Water treat­ment works near Cran­brook, into the Crane Brook, which the Environmen­t Agency said could have been avoided.

This week those claims were vin­di­cated as the water firm was fined £13,500 and or­dered to pay costs of £5,406, as well as £15 vic­tim sur­charge, by mag­is­trates in Sevenoaks.

The court heard that dis­charges into streams of screened sewage – which has been in­spected for ‘waste items’ and ‘un­sightly de­bris’ – are al­lowed dur­ing times of heavy rain, when the sys­tem is over­whelmed and there is enough water in the wa­ter­course to fur­ther di­lute the waste.

But this is only per­mis­si­ble when the flow rate in the in­com­ing sew­ers ex­ceeds 30 litres per sec­ond.

The Environmen­t Agency said no rain had been recorded in the three days prior to the dis­charge, and only 1.2mm had been recorded on Septem­ber 23 and 24, when the spill oc­curred. At no time was the flow equal to 30 litres a sec­ond.

Ben Tragett, se­nior environmen­t of­fi­cer, said the dis­charge seemed to have been caused by a block­age at the works, and alarms should have prompted South­ern Water to take ac­tion.

But he added: “In fact not only was there no re­sponse but the de­fen­dant com­pany were ap­par­ently un­aware of the dis­charge un­til af­ter we vis­ited the site and when their teleme­try records had been in­ter­ro­gated.”

South­ern Water pleaded guilty Although South­ern Water apol­o­gised, the com­pany in­sists the spill hap­pened in heavy rain­fall. A state­ment said: “This hap­pened dur­ing heavy rain when screens that nor­mally fil­ter de­bris from the waste water be­came blocked.” Records held by Kent weath­er­man Lester Gos­bee show this to be in­cor­rect and sup­port the Environmen­t Agency records. South­ern Water waste water qual­ity man­ager Gra­ham Purvis said: “We are sorry this in­ci­dent hap­pened as we take our re­spon­si­bil­ity of pro­tect­ing the environmen­t very se­ri­ously. “ to al­low­ing the spill to oc­cur and has now apol­o­gised.

The court ac­knowl­edged the com­pany did re­spond promptly when the mat­ter was re­ported and that steps had been taken to pre­vent it hap­pen­ing again. A COU­PLE re­tir­ing from run­ning a pub af­ter more than 20 years have thanked cus­tomers and staff for their friend­ship and for be­ing a part of their lives. Land­lords Jean and Ray Mered­ith will be pulling their last pints at The Plough at Lan­g­ley next week­end. The pair took on the Sut­ton Road pub 21 years ago af­ter run­ning the Two Brew­ers in Shore­ham for seven years. Although Mrs Mered­ith ad­mits they have some “trep­i­da­tion” about leav­ing – she says it’s not a job but a way of life – she is con­fi­dent new man­ager Paul Bates will con­tinue the suc­cess they have had. She said they are look­ing for­ward to get­ting their week­ends back and spend­ing time with their three grand­chil­dren. “All good things come to an end,” she added. “To the staff I would like to say thank you for all their sup­port and friend­ship and to the cus­tomers thank you for be­ing part of our lives and mak­ing our busi­ness what it is.” The Mered­iths are hop­ing to “go out with a bang” and are plan­ning a three-day cel­e­bra­tion on Fri­day, Satur­day and Sun­day next week. CHILD cru­elty charges have been dropped against a mother af­ter med­i­cal ex­perts found she was not fit to stand trial.

Dawn Samwell had de­nied two of­fences re­lat­ing to a house fire in Kent in Fe­bru­ary 2009. Pros­e­cu­tor Al­lis­ter Walker said the case had been listed at Maid­stone Crown Court on no fewer than four oc­ca­sions, mainly be­cause of med­i­cal ev­i­dence.

A doc­tor’s re­port had stated that Mrs Samwell, 42, was un­fit to stand trial hav­ing had half of her lung re­moved and suf­fer­ing se­vere and acute pain in the chest wall.

“He rec­om­mends fur­ther ad­journ­ments of this case,” said Mr Walker. “It would be fur­ther and fur­ther ad­journed.

“It is a case in which the Crown, af­ter se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion of the po­si­tion, has come to the con­clu­sion has be­come too great.

“It is no longer in the pub­lic in­ter­est to pur­sue a pros­e­cu­tion against this de­fen­dant. We can­not fore­see a time when she will be in a po­si­tion to stand her trial.”

Judge Jeremy Gold QC said in the cir­cum­stances it was a suit­able po­si­tion to adopt and not guilty ver­dicts were en­tered.

Mrs Samwell, of Up­per Clap­ton Road, Hack­ney, East Lon­don, was not re­quired to at­tend court for the brief hear­ing on Fri­day.

 ??  ?? The River Beult
The River Beult

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