NORTHUMBRIAN Water (NWL) is facing another large fine after it admitted responsibility in a second sewage pollution incident court prosecution, this month.

The regional water company was fined £540,000, with £142,000 costs, after it admitted charges brought by the Environment Agency following a similar pollution case at Heads Hope Burn, near Castle Eden, in County Durham, in May 2017.

Raw untreated sewerage flowed from a manhole cover into a nearby stream, due to blockages in a combined sewer caused by tree root damage in the rural location.

That outbreak, thought to have taken place over two to three days, caused pollution of the water course for up to four kilometres downstream.

NWL previously denied causing or knowingly permitting a water discharge, but changed its plea at Durham Crown Court, on October 5.

Now, in a similar case, the company has again changed plea to accept fault for a sewerage leak from a manhole cover, into inland fresh waters, in County Durham.

It relates to sewerage pollution caused, again, by a blocked combined sewer, this time leading to effluent flowing from the leaking manhole into Coundon Burn, at Auckland Park, Bishop Auckland, on March 13 and 14, 2017.

Coundon Burn flows into the nearby River Gaunless, which is, in turn, a tributary of the River Wear, converging close by in Auckland Park.

The blockage, in this case, was believed to have been caused by a build-up of bricks and rubble in the combined sewer.

NWL denied two counts of causing a discharge activity, at a plea hearing at Newcastle Crown Court, in April.

The case was listed for trial, in June, next year, but at a further case management hearing, today, the company changed pleas and admitted both counts.

Counsel for both the Environment Agency and NWL agreed it was classed as a ‘harm category three’ case in seriousness, but levels of culpability will be considered at the court early in the New Year.

Judge Sarah Mallett asked both prosecution and defence sides to issue their submissions well ahead of the hearing when she passes sentence.

Both parties, Katie Sage for NWL, and Richard Bradley, for the agency, then asked for dates available to their counsel to attend the sentencing hearing.

Judge Mallett opted for Thursday January 6, for a three-hour hearing.

Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated County Durham Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on or contact 01325 505054