South West Water has been ordered to pay £3,358 in fines and costs after a sewage treatment works at Combe Martin failed to operate correctly just before the start of the 2009 bathing water season. The case was brought by the Environment Agency.   On Apri

South West Water has been ordered to pay £3,358 in fines and costs after a sewage treatment works at Combe Martin failed to operate correctly just before the start of the 2009 bathing water season. The case was brought by the Environment Agency.

On April 22, 2009 an Agency officer carried out a pre-arranged inspection of the treatment works. At one point in the biological treatment process he noticed the effluent was "very grey" in colour with relatively high suspended solids.

In this part of the process sewage is digested by micro-organisms in the presence of oxygen.

When the process is working correctly the effluent is relatively clear with only fine suspended solids.

The officer reported the fault to South West Water and urged the company to take whatever measures were needed to improve the quality of the final effluent. The next day (April 23) the company self-reported a sample failure at Combe Martin sewage treatment works a few days earlier (April 15).

The sample contained 222 milligrams per litre of biological oxygen demand (BOD) - almost three times the maximum permitted BOD limit of 80 milligrams per litre.

On April 24, 2009 an Agency officer returned to Combe Martin sewage treatment works where he noticed the effluent in the treatment tanks was still grey in colour, but slightly improved from the previous inspection.

'It is important water companies ensure sewage treatment works operate within the conditions of their consents at all times,' said Andrew Leyman for the Environment Agency.

Appearing before Barnstaple magistrates, South West Water Ltd, of Peninsula House, Rydon Lane, Exeter was fined £2,500 and ordered to pay £843 in costs after pleading guilty to an offence under Section 85(6) of the Water Resources Act 1991 of failing to comply with a condition of its discharge consent at Combe Martin sewage treatment works. The company was also ordered to pay a £15.00 victim surcharge.