The incident took place between 31st January and 12th February 2013 when drilling activity ruptured one of the main pipes from a reservoir at Cooks Castle in Wroxall. It meant that ‘discoloured and highly turbid’ water – which contains soil and other debris – was served to thousands of properties in Ventnor and the surrounding areas.
It wasn’t until 1st March 2013 that the leak was located by Southern Water, which the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) says was an investigatory failing by the utility company. It is because of the company’s failings that the charges were brought to court.
Marcus Rink, Chief Inspector of Drinking Water Inspectorate has said:
“Following a lengthy investigation which commenced in 2016, a previously undisclosed and significant water quality incident from 2013 was uncovered where there was a failure to protect consumers. Flagrant disregard for regulatory duties and consumer protection will always result in action by the Inspectorate in the public interest.”
DWI chief inspector Marcus Rink said: “Following a lengthy investigation, which commenced in 2016, a previously undisclosed and significant water quality incident from 2013 was uncovered where there was a failure to protect consumers. Flagrant disregard for regulatory duties and consumer protection will always result in action by the inspectorate in the public interest.
Southern Water have said in a statement:
“We apologise unreservedly for the incident that affected water for customers and consumers in the Ventnor and surrounding area in 2013. We fully accept the court’s judgement.
“It is never acceptable to provide water that does not meet the highest standards and this is why we pleaded guilty.
“Over the past 2 years a new management team has been put in place and procedures have been updated to ensure this type of incident will not result in a lowering of water quality for our customers in the future.
“We take our environmental and public health responsibilities extremely seriously and will be working with our regulators to ensure we are fully compliant.
Southern Water say that as part of root-and-branch changes to how they operate, Dr Alison Hoyle was appointed in April 2017 to lead a compliance and asset resilience team. Dr Guy Franklin, a former DWI inspector, was also appointed last year as head of water quality and compliance.
A new team of public health advisors charged with improving and auditing water quality and hygiene processes supports the work of the company.
In his summing up at the Isle of Wight Crown Court on Friday (10th August), Judge Hetherington said:
“It is clear this is a very different company now”.