Thames Water ordered to increase compensation as sewer flooding appeal rejected

Thames Water has had an appeal rejected and been forced to pay more compensation to victims of sewer flooding in what the Environment Agency (EA) has described a “ten year litigation saga”.

The water company was appealing against fines totalling £204,000 imposed in 2011 by the Bromley Magistrates Court, for letting raw sewage flood homes, gardens and a local stream in South London in 2003.

The court found that Thames Water failed to take steps to bring the situation under control. It also heard that there had been previous sewage flooding affecting residents.

According to the EA, Thames Water went to the High Court three times and the European Court of Justice once, to “try to escape legal liability” for the consequences of the escape of untreated sewage from their sewers.

Apart from the fines and compensation totalling £208,015, Thames was ordered to pay another £206,000 to cover the EA’s legal costs for their various unsuccessful legal proceedings.

The EA estimates that the 10-year case has cost Thames Water over £750,000 when its own legal costs are included.

Angus Innes of EA’s prosecutions team said: “It could reasonably be suggested that the money spent on this litigation could have been better applied to replacing and augmenting the sewer system in this area to protect the residents from further sewer flooding.”

The EA says it is currently investigating another incidence of sewer flooding affecting the same residents, which occurred in January this year. 

A Thames Water spokesperson said: “We deeply regret any impact on our customers or the environment caused by sewage escaping from our 68,000-mile network of sewers.

“In this case we appealed the original fines imposed by the Bromley magistrates as we felt they failed to take into account our mitigating actions during the period concerned.

“We lost this appeal and we accept the court’s decision.”