SOUTH West Water Limited, a member of Pennon Group PLC, has paid £5,800 to compensate a small fly-fishing club whose stretches of the River Creedy in Devon were polluted with ferric sulphate, a chemical used in the water treatment process which is toxic to aquatic life. 

Fish Legal made a claim against the utility on behalf of the Crediton Fly Fishing Club, which manages the River Creedy as a wild trout fishery.

Following the pollution incident in July 2017, the stretch of the river affected by the pollution was closed to fishing to allow the fishery to recover. 

The water company was prosecuted by the Environment Agency in April 2022 for discharges into the river and is currently awaiting a sentence for breaches of the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2016. 

Geoff Hardy, Solicitor at Fish Legal, said: “Although only a small club, it is not the first time that the Crediton Fly Fishing Club has taken legal action through Fish Legal against this water company.

“They did so in 2010 when the River Yeo was carpeted in sewage following a malfunction at South West Water’s treatment works in Crediton.”

He added: “This case shows that when it comes to water company pollution it is not just about sewage.

“Many of the processes and substances that water companies use in their work are lethal to river-life if not controlled properly.

“What amazes me is that a case that the Environment Agency said was straightforward at the time has taken just short of five years to reach the criminal courts.”

Gary Clark, Crediton Fishing Club secretary, said: "We were bitterly disappointed to experience a second pollution incident at the hands of the same culprit within a few years.

“The River Creedy is a beautiful all wild trout fishery and is also home to otters, kingfishers and diverse species including the rare and endangered native crayfish.

“Obviously, such incidents upset the whole ecosystem.  We are very grateful to Fish Legal for doggedly pursuing the matter to seek justice.

“The compensation will be used to further improve and maintain our fisheries, which in turn will support club membership."

Iain Vosper, Operations Director for Wastewater Services at South West Water, said:

“We deeply regret this incident and apologise for the impact caused. We know that any pollution incident is one too many. We accepted full responsibility at the earliest point of this investigation and cooperated fully throughout.

“This isolated incident in July 2017 does not reflect our pollution performance today. Since 2020, we have made major investments and significant improvements to our pollution planning and performance, including measures to address the cause of this incident, which has successfully reduced overall pollution incidents by a third year on year.

Pollutions are now at their lowest for over 10 years. We’ve also increased resourcing by 25% and strengthened our round-the-clock response capabilities to further reduce any pollution risk.

“South West Water is fully committed to playing its part in protecting our region’s natural environment and we continue to reduce pollutions and target zero serious pollutions by 2025.”