Fines for spills of raw sewage: not in Canada

U.K. Water company Thames Water was recently fined £345,000 (about $550,000) for several uncontrolled releases of sewage from street level access covers which found its way into gardens and under houses.  The company was also ordered to pay legal costs of £139,690  and compensation of £2,250 to two residents.

This story caught Gallon Letter’s eye because similar overflows from sewers occur from time to time in Ontario municipalities. When the sewage goes into basements in Ontario the homeowners may get some compensation from the municipality or its insurer but there are no penalties and no one gets fined. Why is that? Well, expressed simply, it is because the municipality is both the operator of the sewage system and the prosecutor for sewage offences.

Watch a future issue of Gallon Environment Letter for a discussion of why it is unwise to have operators of environmentally risky systems, like sewers, to also have the role of enforcer when trouble arises.

For more information on the Thames Water case, visit http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/news/128271.aspx?page=5&month=3&year=2011

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