Thames' failure to tackle sewage stink breached human rights, High Court rules

Thames Water has been found to have breached human rights in its persistent failure to tackle sewage odour problems, following a protracted High Court Battle.

Mr Justice Ramsey ruled yesterday that residents near Mogden sewage treatment works had suffered significant avoidable inconvenience and annoyance, impacting on enjoyment of family life.

He accepted 18 out of 30 allegations of negligence and ordered Thames to pay damages of £19,000 to the ten lead claimants.

He said: "Because I have held that Thames Water failed to carry out the work and conduct the operation at Mogden sewage treatment works with all reasonable regard and care for the interests of other persons, including the claimants, it follows in my view that Thames Water failed properly to respect the rights of claimants and did not do all they reasonably could to prevent odour from migrating from the Mogden sewage treatment works."

He declined to grant an injunction against the water company to prevent future nuisance, in recognition of upgrade work it is undertaking at the plant.

Campaigners hailed it as a "significant victory" for the 1,350 residents living near the Mogden plant.

Steve Taylor, one of the lead claimants, said: "I hope this case shows that David can take on Goliath in our legal system and win. The case was never about money; it was about holding Thames Water to account for the problems that it has caused us over the last 10 years. The huge impact on ordinary people's lives and on the environment cannot be underestimated."

The Mogden site has been the subject of stink complaints for more than a decade. Legal proceedings had dragged on since 2005 due to the complexity of the underlying issues.

Martin Baggs, chief executive of Thames Water, said: "We accept we caused an odour nuisance from Mogden sewage works at various times between 1999 and 2007. We apologise to the residents affected and do not intend to contest the damages awarded by the judge.

"We are currently in the middle of a £140m upgrade of the works, which will boost its capacity by 50%, improve treatment processes and further reduce odour by covering the most odorous parts of the works which are not already covered."

A Thames Water spokesman added that the company expected to challenge claimants' costs, given that it had successfully defended several of the allegations against it.

Author: Paul Newton,
Tags: Thames Water

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