The record fine imposed on South West Water for pumping sewage into rivers amounts to just 0.3 per cent of the company’s pre-tax profits. That’s a smaller percentage of annual income than a littering fine would be for the average UK earner.
Courts will “no longer tolerate” water pollution, District Judge Joanna Matson told SWW as she imposed a £2.1 million fee on the provider following years of environmental breaches. It might sound like a high price to pay. But is it really?
According to campaign group River Action, South West Water made pre-tax profits of £702.4 million between 2016 and 2020. The fine is equivalent to 0.3 percent of those profits.
How much do South West Water have to pay?
SWW mismanagement and water pollution caused “significant environmental damage,” the court said.
Incidents include pumping sewage into a local river for more than 35 hours, killing thousands of fish with an accidental chemical spill, and allowing E.coli levels to spike 2,000 times higher than the ‘poor’ rating at a local beach.
But in terms of ratio to income, this penalty is less severe than the fines imposed on ordinary people for littering. 0.3 per cent of the average UK salary – £28,000 per year – is £84. But If police saw you drop a bit of rubbish, you could be fined £150, roughly 0.53 percent of the annual UK salary.