Anglian Water has agreed to pay £50,000 to an environmental charity after a manhole overflowed with black sludge and grey liquid into a watercourse in Bedfordshire due to a blocked sewer.
The Environment Agency said an enforcement undertaking (EU) has been agreed with the water company, which has donated the money to the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire.
Anglian will “put right any damage caused by the pollution” and has paid back the Environment Agency’s costs of £3,451.
The blockage in the sewer in June 2015 was in the branch from Yarl’s Wood Immigration Centre and included single-use shampoo sachets provided by the centre for its residents.
The Environment Agency classified the incident as a category 2 due to raised ammonia levels in the watercourse at Highfield Farm near Ravensden.
There had been six blockages on the same stretch of sewer since 2011, when it was transferred to Anglian. It was not mapped onto the company’s system until after this incident, the Environment Agency said.
Anglian Water said its goal is to have no pollution and it has a “programme of activity and investment in place” to achieve this.
A spokesperson added: “The incident at Ravensden was caused by fats oils and grease and other unflushables like wipes and cosmetic sachets blocking the sewer pipe from Yarl’s Wood Immigration Centre. As soon as our teams were made aware of the incident, we responded quickly to clear the area and there was no evidence of any impact to fish or insects.
“We take our role protecting the environment extremely seriously and we also need our customers to play their part. This is why we ask customers to think before they flush and not to put fats oils and grease down the drain. We have also been working closely with the centre to raise awareness of the issue and offer advice to residents.
“We regret any [incidents] that do happen, no matter how small, and support enforcement undertakings as a sensible, proportionate response that benefits local communities and the environment.”
Chris Tate, team leader at Environment Agency, said: “Enforcement undertakings allow those who commit offences to restore the environment and to take steps to prevent a recurrence.
“When appropriate, they allow a quicker resolution than a prosecution and help offenders who are prepared to take responsibility for their actions to put things right voluntarily working with their local communities.”
The £50,000 will be used to benefit the environment of Nene Valley and Ouse Valley Living Landscape areas.