South West Water has admitted that sewage overflowed into the River Dart after two pumps failed at Dartmouth last year. The case was brought by the Environment Agency.

The water company was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £1,400 costs for allowing sewage to discharge from the Mayors Avenue pumping station.

Totnes magistrates heard that between April 30 and May 2 sewage effluent leaked into the Dart Estuary after a failure of one of the pumps. Normally, following failure of the main pump, a standby pump would have taken over but there was no standby pump in place.  

On April 11,  one of the pumps at the Mayors Avenue station broke and was removed.   South West Water maintained that a new pump was ordered but, because of a problem with the guide rail mechanism to insert the pump into position, it was not possible to put the new piece of equipment in.

The station was then operating on a single pump which failed with no back up in place . With no pumps working, the sewage began to build up within the station and  then overflowed into the river.  Fortunately, the effluent had been screened and diluted so it was not raw sewage

The Environment Agency told magistrates there had been two previous occasions in 2004 when pumps failed at that station.

‘In this latest incident the discharge lasted about 40 minutes. The problem was caused by a maintenance schedule that was not robust enough,’ said Ted Pritchard for the Environment Agency.

South West Water, of Peninsula House, Rydon Lane, Exeter, admitted one offence of causing sewage effluent to enter controlled waters, namely the River Dart, contrary to Section 85 (3) & (6) of the Water Resources Act 1991.