Thousands of fish died after raw sewage escaped into a stream for up to 20 hours.

Southern Water has been fined a hefty £330,000 for the blunder after failing to respond to an alarm set off by faulty equipment.

Scores of brown trout and other dead fish were discovered – totalling 2,000 deaths.

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The water company was sentenced at Southampton Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to a breach of environmental regulations.

The case regarding the pollution and operation of Little Bull pumping station was brought forward by the Environment Agency.

The deadly leak on July 21 2019 spilled untreated effluent into Shawford Lake Stream in Waltham Chase, Hampshire.

But the damage did not stop there as the sewage flooded fields, crossing into the site of the YMCA Fairthorne Manor activity centre.

The popular centre had to cancel 1,000 bookings with no water sports taking place for 10 days, which they were compensated for.

According to the Environment Agency, the incident was a result of a pump failing.

A spokesperson said: “When a second one wouldn’t start, sewage and other hazardous substances were diverted up through two manholes, across fields and into Shawford Lake Stream, leading to the popular YMCA Fairthorne Manor.

“In the days after the incident in July 2019, investigators from the Environment Agency found pools of dirty water and polluted matter and vegetation in local fields.

“The stream was cloudy as pollution spread across nearly 3km.

“Ammonia levels in the water were 25 times the legal limit.”

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Investigators believe the illegal flow of contaminated matter continued over public land and the stream for between five and 20 hours.    

The incident happened near where habitats and wetlands were previously given formal protection by conservation bodies.

Dawn Theaker, environment manager in Hampshire for the Environment Agency, said a prosecution was sought due to 'a direct result of negligence'.

She said: "Yet again, we have a water company failing to properly respond to alarms when things go wrong at facilities they operate, allowing sewage to flow uncontrolled into fields and a stream.

"Any pollution is unacceptable, but this one happened close to a Site of Special Scientific Interest and other designations meant to provide greater protection for nature."

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An alarm on the failed pump went off just after 7am, but Southern Water had failed to act on it. 

The Environment Agency sent an officer to the scene in response to the first report and fed back that the stream alongside the pumping station was cloudy.

The officer saw sewage debris had collected around one manhole in a field and then evidence of sewage coming out of another nearby.

He also saw the first of many dead fish as a result of the pollution, including brown trout, bullheads and sticklebacks.

Only dead fish were seen in the stream. 

At the sentencing, district judge Nicholas Wattam ordered Southern Water to pay the Environment Agency’s costs of £18,764 and a victim surcharge of £181 in addition to the £330,000 fine. 


Southern Water was fined after pleading guilty to one breach of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations, relating to a 2019 pollution incident in Little Bull Lane, Hampshire.

Richard Manning, General Counsel and Company Secretary said: "We are very sorry that this unacceptable historical incident in 2019 led to environmental damage.

"As soon as we became aware of this event, we took action to reduce its impact on the local area, and have since co-operated fully with the Environment Agency’s investigation, pleading guilty at the first opportunity.

"In acknowledgement of our role, we have already compensated the YMCA and set up a £140,000 grant scheme with the Groundwork South Trust to aid habitat improvement.

"Learning from this incident also led to a comprehensive review of our more than 3,000 unmanned pumping stations to ensure those at highest risk were fit for purpose, leading to a rolling programme of improvements to equipment and monitoring technology which has already cost more than £13 million.

"Almost five years on from this incident, we now have a new leadership team and shareholders, and are continuing to deliver our landmark Turnaround Plan at pace - ensuring improvements are achieved across the board, including in tackling pollutions which have been slashed from 430 in 2019 to 358 last year and a further dramatic drop is due to be announced shortly.”