Water company Severn Trent has been fined £350,000 after pollution in the River Amber led to the death of 30,000 fish.
The pollution, which investigations revealed originated from a release of sodium hydroxide from the Ogston Water Treatment works, near Higham, also damaged the ecology along a 5km stretch of the waterway.
Severn Trent apologised for the incident after being fined and ordered to pay Environment Agency costs of £68,003, as well as a victim surcharge of £120, at Derby Crown Court, sitting in Nottingham.
On November 1 2015, the Environment Agency received reports of several hundred dead fish in the River Amber.
Severn Trent Water identified that a leak within a chamber at the treatment works had led to the contents becoming contaminated with sodium hydroxide, which was then washed through the road gully into the river via an outfall pipe. The pollution had a significant negative impact on the fish and invertebrate populations within the river.
The Environment Agency has been monitoring the natural recovery of its ecology over the last two years – and a full recovery is not expected until the summer of this year.
Speaking after the case, an Environment Agency officer involved with the investigation said: “This is a significant fine imposed on Severn Trent Water Limited for causing pollution. I hope it sends a strong message that it is far more cost effective to avoid these incidents, as we will continue to take companies and individuals to task where they ignore their responsibilities.
“Pollution causes damage to the environment and river ecology, in this case sodium hydroxide with a concentration of 20 per cent amounts to a hazardous chemical.”
In mitigation, Severn Trent co-operated fully with the investigation and donated £228,000 to the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust.