A “CATASTROPHIC” burst pipe saw a company fined £22,500 after it supplied discoloured water to homes.
Northumbrian Water pleaded guilty to four counts of supplying water unfit for human consumption after a pipe ruptured at Horsley, near Corbridge, Northumberland, in July 2010.
Homeowners in Newcastle, North Tyneside and South East Northumberland were left with discoloured water, and it triggered thousands of calls to the company between July 15 and 20, 2010.
Newcastle Magistrates’ Court heard how the fault affected one householder in Prudhoe who needed to take his medication. Another household needed water to sterilise a baby’s bottle, but wouldn’t use the discoloured liquid.
Paul Kelly, on behalf of Northumbrian Water, said it did everything “humanly possible” to ensure supplies were not lost and there was never any risk to the health of consumers.
He said: “The company pulled out all the stops to rectify the situation, working round the clock, employing over 300 people. Northumbrian Water cooperated with the Drinking Water Inspectorate throughout and this was self-reported, as it should be.” Mr Kelly added that the repair operation cost the company £2m. Work has since started to prevent similar problems in future.
The charges were brought by the Drinking Water Inspectorate under Section 70 of the Water Industry Act 1991.
Professor Jeni Colbourne, chief inspector at the inspectorate, said: “This case was brought in the public interest following the repair of a burst main which resulted in a large number of consumers receiving untreated water which they rejected because of its appearance.
“Regardless of the need to resume supplies to customers as quickly as possible, this case reminds Northumbrian Water that in the process, water quality cannot be compromised”
Chair of the bench Eileen Rowe said: “We’ve taken into consideration that this was a catastrophic burst in extreme circumstances. Northumbrian Water did everything possible following their procedures. There was no negligence.
“This has already had a large financial impact in order to correct the situation.”
Northumbrian Water was ordered to pay an £8,000 fine, £12,707.16 investigation costs, £1,790.80 in legal costs and a £15 victim surcharge. The full £22,512.96 must be paid in full in 28 days.