THAMES Water has been fined £4m for releasing a 'waterfall' of around half a million litres of raw sewage into Oxford streams.

The Environment Agency, which brought the prosecution, said the sewage had been allowed to flow into Seacourt and Hinksey streams for around 30 hours in July 2016.

The raw sewage flowed for ‘at least’ two miles, through a pub garden and past community allotments, and was linked to the deaths of up to 3,000 fish. Canoeists reported the leak to the authorities after finding themselves paddling through sewage and dead fish.

Speaking after Thames Water was fined £4m at Aylesbury Crown Court and ordered to pay more than £90,000 in costs, senior Environment Agency officer Robert Davis said: “It was quite horrific. Sewage pollution was bank to bank and there was a foul stench of raw sewage.

“When we traced the source we found a waterfall of raw sewage discharging via a pipe into the streams.

“Amongst the dead fish, fisheries officers observed hundreds more on the surface, suffering and gasping for oxygen.”

The sewage discharge was blamed on Thames Water’s failure to carry out maintenance to prevent blockages in a ‘vulnerable’ sewer.

The Environment Agency said the company, which has been fined more than £30m since 2017 for polluting local waterways, had no system in place to identify blockages or pollution and described the incident as foreseeable and avoidable.

Thames Water had previously been issued with two formal warnings after sewage was released from the same pipe due to blockages in February and March 2012.

Mr Davis said: “This fine sends out a clear warning to the boards of all water companies – invest heavily in maintaining your sewers and don’t drop the ball when it comes to carrying out that maintenance.

“Incidents like this are preventable and are completely unacceptable, particularly at a time when the need to protect the water environment for wildlife and people has never been greater and when public consciousness on environmental matters is so high.”

Richard Aylard, Thames Water’s sustainability director, said: “We are deeply sorry for this incident in 2016 and the entirely unacceptable pollution that was caused to the Seacourt Stream, following a blockage of our sewer.

“We pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and accept the judgement of the court that we failed badly by not inspecting and cleaning this part of the sewer system.

“But things have changed. As part of the comprehensive turnaround programme launched by our new chief executive we are doing five times as much sewer cleaning as we were in 2016.”

Oxford Mail: Still from video of the sewage release in Oxford in 2016 Picture: EA

Still from video of the sewage release in Oxford in 2016 Picture: EA

Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

For news updates straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on or 01865 425 445.