Skip to main content

This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

Coverage on South West Water’s record £2.1 million

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Pollution, water

The River Creedy in Crediton was one location where harmful chemicals from SWW damaged the environment

There is coverage in multiple outlets including The Telegraph, The Times, BBC Spotlight, BBC News, i News and ITV, after South West Water (SWW) received a fine of more than £2 million for a series of environmental offences across Devon and Cornwall.

It is the largest ever fine imposed for environmental offences in the region.

Handing down her sentence yesterday (26 April), District Judge Matson said ‘incidents of pollution will no longer be tolerated by these courts’ and fined the water company £2,150,000.

The company pleaded guilty to a total of 13 charges - spanning a period of four years - before Plymouth Magistrates’ Court.

Today’s sentence ‘shows the shareholders and management of South West Water the importance of compliance’, said the judge.

Water Minister Rebecca Pow, said:

Water companies should not be letting this happen and those that do will be punished using the full force of the law. This fine reflects the severity of the pollution that occurred across Devon and Cornwall, causing damage to both wildlife and protected sites.

It will rightly be paid solely from the company’s operating profits and not passed on to customer bills.

As set out in our recent Plan for Water, fines handed out to water companies that pollute our rivers and seas will be re-invested into a new Water Restoration Fund, which will deliver on-the-ground improvements to our natural environment and water quality.

Alan Lovell, Chair of the Environment Agency, said:

We welcome this sentence. Serious pollution is a serious crime – and we have been clear that the polluter must pay.

The Environment Agency will pursue any water company that fails to uphold the law or protect nature and will continue to press for the strongest possible penalties.

Clarissa Newell, Environment Agency environment manager for Devon and Cornwall, said:

Failure to apply basic environment management principles has caused pollution incidents at some of the most scenic locations in Devon and Cornwall including bathing waters and designated Special Areas of Conservation (SAC).

Having alarms to alert you that sewage is spilling is no good if no action is taken. Enforcement is intended to prevent these things from happening again and ensure South West Water improve and meet the expectations placed on it.

Like all water companies, South West Water has a responsibility to operate in accordance with permit conditions and to prevent pollution. Polluters must pay and the Environment Agency will continue to do everything in its power to ensure that they do.

Follow Defra on Twitter, and sign up for email alerts here.

Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by John w. Baxter posted on

    Is this a sign that the past leniency is about to change , or just another exercise in finding it more commercially viable to pollute for four years then pay a fine at less cost than investing and operating the assets to protect bill payers?.
    I find it hard to believe that the EA allowed this environmental damage to continue unpunished for so long……..maybe there is hope for the river Wye after all!.

  2. Comment by Andrew Ferrier posted on

    Brilliant, about time; now look closely at herbicides which kill the weed and thus depletes the food chain for the invertebrates and thus the fish.

  3. Comment by Jan Metcalf posted on

    Money from the Water Restoration Fund should go to restoring the Environment Agency's monitoring capability which has been woefully eroded over the last decade. How can they effectively fulfil their role to protect our environment without adequate funding to collect data? They also need money as a matter of urgency to up date their monitoring equipment.