NORTHUMBRIAN Water has been fined £1,200 after hundreds of fish died when raw sewage discharged into a river near Durham.

The company was also ordered to pay £2,803 in costs by magistrates at Consett, County Durham, after admitting breaching two sections of the 1991 Water Resources Act.

The court heard that the Environment Agency, which brought the prosecution, was called in after members of the public saw dead fish in the River Browney, at Langley Moor, in September 1999.

Agency officers found raw sewage discharging from the pumping station at Stonebridge, creating a fungus that covered the river.

Officers found that about 800 fish, including sea and brown trout, had died over six days since the discharge was thought to have started.

Northumbrian Water told the court that no pollution alarm was received at its control because a contractor working at the station had not wired the alarm properly.

Other alarms would have been activated during the discharge but they had not been picked up and acted upon.

Afterwards a spokesman for the company said: "No one in the North-East is doing more to improve the region's environment. We will continue to do all we can to clean up the rivers, coast and estuaries. We are spending huge amounts of money on it.''