It has been revealed to the public that United Utilities and their affiliated construction companies have admitted responsibility for releasing bleach into Bradshaw Brook in Bolton, poisoning the fish in the stream and causing environmental damage.
Beginning in December 2013, local people in Bradshaw noticed the sudden appearance of hundreds of dead fish in the stream, washing up on the banks and floating downstream, prompting the worried townspeaople to call the Environment Agency. After the call was made, the agency sent out a team of investigators, and established an incident hotline which allowed a dedicated, easy-access communications line for further information on the incident.
The investigators worked on the scene as well, determining that the polluting chemical was bleach, sodium hypochlorite, commonly used in water purification and, in higher concentrations, in dangerous household cleaning products. Tracing the source of the contamination upstream, the investigative team discovered the source of the chemicals to be Wayoh Water Treatment Works at Turton, a water utilities plant run by United Utilities.
The bleach had been released on December 4th, 2013, and had killed off the fish in the stream very shortly after that.
During trail at Bolton Crown Court, representatives of United Utilities registered a guilty plea on behalf of the company, pleading guilty to charges of causing a water discharge activity not under and to the extent authorised by an environmental permit contrary to regulation 12(1)(b) and 38(1)(a) of the Environmental Permitting (England & Wales) Regulations 2010. The unregulated, non-permitted release of bleach caused notable environmental damage which United Utilities has accepted responsibility for.
KMI PLus, a coalition of construction companies which was working on a range of projects for United Utilities at the time of the release, also made a guilty plea to the same charges. When the pollution occurred, KMI was working on a £400 million development project for United Utilities which involved designing, building and commissioning a large number of facilities across the north of England, to upgrade United Utilities’ water treatment infrastructure and -ironically- help make the company more environmentally friendly in the process.
After both defendent parties registered their pleas, court was adjourned until 13th June, 2016. On that date a new trial will begin to determine what level of responsibility must be assumed by each party for the pollution, and the harm it caused. Sentencing will occur after this has been decided, and can include an unlimited fine and up to five years in prison.
If you have questions about the case or its aftermath, or simply wish to speak to a representative, call the United Utilities contact number here.