Anglian Water pays £154k fine after sewage discharged into river north of Bedford

Contractors working for the company used a tanker jetter to unblock a sewer
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Anglian Water has paid a £150,000 fine after sewage was released into the River Til north of Bedford.

The incident happened in 2018 after contractors working for the water company used a tanker jetter to unblock a sewer after sewage gathered in a field in Yelden.

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Yeldon in north BedsYeldon in north Beds
Yeldon in north Beds

This increase in flow caused the small rural Yelden Water Recycling Centre to become overwhelmed resulting in sewage discharging into the river.

The impact to the River Til was limited to 660 metres but ammonia levels were high. Dissolved oxygen was also depressed at a level likely to impact fish but there was no evidence of any dead fish or invertebrates.

Anglian Water reported the pollution to the Environment Agency and took action to clean it up. Other measures were taken to prevent a similar incident happening in the future.

Although Anglian Water had a nine bullet point environmental procedure document to deal with such incidents, there was no adequate written procedure setting out how to assess specific environmental risks and how to overcome them to prevent pollution from small sites like Yelden.

Yelden, which has the River Til running through itYelden, which has the River Til running through it
Yelden, which has the River Til running through it

On May 4, 2023, the Environment Agency imposed a Variable Monetary Penalty (VMP) on Anglian Water Services Ltd of £150,000 and costs to the Environment Agency of £4,428.33. This was the first time a water company in England has paid a VMP in relation to a pollution incident.

An Anglian Water spokesperson said: “We take our responsibilities to the natural environment very seriously, and deeply regret the incident at Yielden in 2018.

“The issue was caused by an unflushables blockage in the sewer pipe leading to a small water recycling centre in Yelden. When the blockage was removed it caused additional flows to the works which overwhelmed the process for a short time. This lead to a small spill into an often dry part of the River Til which had a minor impact on the environment.

“Every day, Anglian Water spends half a million pounds to keep the network running as it should. Around £19 million is spent each year on preventing sewer blockages, and maintenance of our vast network. We work tirelessly to protect and enhance the environment, so it is particularly distressing when incidents like this occur.”


Jeremy Hay, senior environment officer at the Environment Agency, said: “Polluters should always be held to account, and, as much as our resources allow, we will always investigate significant pollution incidents and bring those responsible to justice.

“We are pleased with the success of this type of civil sanction, which we hope will change behaviour. It’s vital that future civil sanctions are not only proportionate but also an effective deterrent to all who pollute our rivers and waters.

“If members of the public are concerned about pollution, they should call our 24/7 incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60.”