BRADFORD firm Yorkshire Water has paid a record £1 million to environmental and wildlife charities after polluting a beck.

The company breached its environmental permit when sewage from an overflow polluted Hookstone Beck in Harrogate, killing 1,500 fish and affecting water quality.

Following an investigation by the Environment Agency into the unauthorised sewage discharge, the firm proposed a £1m charitable donation as part of an enforcement undertaking – the largest ever accepted by the Agency.

It has paid £500,000 to Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and £500,000 to Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust.

The water company, which is headquartered in Buttershaw, has also completed a significant £1.85m sewer network upgrade in the area as part of the enforcement terms to bring it back into compliance with its environmental permit.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Pollution at Hookstone Beck in HarrogatePollution at Hookstone Beck in Harrogate (Image: Environment Agency)

Hookstone Road combined sewer overflow has an environmental permit which allows a discharge into the beck when the storm sewage facility is full due to rainfall or snow melt.

In August 2016, the Environment Agency received a report of pollution in Hookstone Beck, which investigating officers traced it to the overflow at Hookstone Road, that had blocked and not alerted Yorkshire Water due to faulty telemetry equipment.

The investigation found that almost 1,500 fish had been killed and water quality affected for 2.5km downstream. A series of further blockages and discharges took place in the following months.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Yorkshire Water headquarters in BradfordYorkshire Water headquarters in Bradford (Image: Newsquest)

Claire Barrow, Environment Agency area environment manager in Yorkshire, said: “We always consider enforcement options on a case by case basis and Enforcement Undertakings allow companies to put right what went wrong and contribute to environmental improvements and outcomes.

“This significant £1million civil sanction will be invested back into the local area to enhance the environment for people and wildlife.

“The Environment Agency investigation also led to significant improvements to the sewer network in this area to prevent repeat incidents and ensure future compliance with environmental requirements.”

A Yorkshire Water spokesperson said: “This incident was initially caused by a plank of wood that shouldn’t have been in the sewer network and took place seven years ago. We acted quickly to stop the pollution but understand incidents of this kind are distressing and when things go wrong, we understand we have a responsibility to make it right and to prevent these things from happening at all.

"Unfortunately, it has taken seven years to reach an agreement with the Environment Agency to donate funds to local wildlife charities that will directly benefit Yorkshire, but we are pleased to have finally provided funds to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust."