Southern Water faces record fine after 'shocking' sewage failings
Southern Water has been hit with record penalties and payments of £126m after water regulator Ofwat found that the company had been deliberately misreporting its sewage performance in order to hide "serious failures".
The regulator said that a long-term investigation had uncovered Southern Water's failure to operate a number of wastewater treatments works properly, with equipment failures and spillages of wastewater into the environment coming after the company neglected to make necessary investments.
Then, in order to avoid penalties, Southern was found to have manipulated its wastewater sampling process and misreported information about the performance of a number of sewage treatment sites.
In the largest package of penalties and payments ever imposed by Ofwat, the utility company will pay a total rebate of £123m to customers through their bills and pay a fine of £3m.
Individual Southern Water wastewater customers should expect a total rebate of £61, with £17 in 2020/21 and £11 in each of the following four years.
Rachel Fletcher, chief executive of Ofwat, said: "What we found in this case is shocking. In all, it shows the company was being run with scant regard for its responsibilities to society and the environment. It was not just the poor operational performance, but the co-ordinated efforts to hide and deceive customers of the fact that are so troubling. The previous management failed to stamp out this behaviour and failed to manage its plants properly."
Southern Water appointed a new chief executive in January 2017 and has committed to new governance arrangements to change the company’s culture, with investment having also been made into the failing treatment sites.