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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 June 2007, 17:40 GMT 18:40 UK
Diesel spill firm fined 20,000
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South West Water received nearly 2,400 complaints
South West Water has been fined 20,000 after drinking water was contaminated with diesel oil at a Devon reservoir.

The firm admitted four offences under the Water Act at Honiton Magistrates' Court relating to the incident at the Belvedere reservoir in Exeter in 2006.

It was also involved in a serious pollution incident in which partially treated sewage was discharged into the River Fal in Cornwall on 2 June.

The Environment Agency is investigating how it happened.

It should not have happened given our clear procedures and we needed to learn some lessons from that
Dr Stephen Bird
SWW director of operations

The diesel contamination happened on 3 February 2006 when a South West Water (SWW) worker mistakenly connected a drum containing 20 litres of diesel to a chlorination unit on the reservoir outlet.

SWW received nearly 2,400 complaints, many of them about the objectionable taste or smell in their water.

"Do Not Drink" notices were issued to about 3,000 households in the Beacon Heath, Pennsylvania and Stoke Hill areas of Exeter from 6 February until 9 February when the all-clear was given.

SWW director of operations Dr Stephen Bird told BBC News: "It should not have happened given our clear procedures and we needed to learn some lessons from that.

"We now have probably the most robust procedures in the water industry to make sure it does not happen again."

'Operational fault'

The company was also ordered to pay costs of 11,875 in relation to the incident.

In Cornwall, the Environment Agency is investigating a serious pollution incident in which partially treated sewage was discharged into the River Fal from SWW's Newham treatment works about two weeks ago.

River Fal
Regular sampling will continue to check water quality in the river

Shell fisheries in the area were closed by the Port of Falmouth and Truro Health Authority as a precaution.

SWW said the discharge on 2 June was caused by an operational fault which was repaired as quickly as possible.

It said in a statement: "The sewage was fully settled and fine screened and, as required, we advised both the Environment Agency and Truro and Falmouth Port Health Authority of the discharge."

Sampling will continue on a regular basis to check water quality.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
South West Water said lessons had been learned



SEE ALSO
Quality check on county's water
07 Apr 07 |  Cornwall
Tests start on mussels pollution
21 Mar 07 |  Cornwall
Company fined for effluent leak
09 Mar 04 |  Cornwall

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