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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