A UK court Tuesday fined Thames Water, the nation’s biggest supplier of the commodity, £3.3 million ($4.2 million) for polluting rivers, heaping more pressure on the indebted company at risk of renationalisation.
Thames Water, which supplies homes and business throughout London and surrounding areas, pleaded guilty to pumping millions of litres of undiluted sewage into rivers near the capital’s Gatwick Airport in 2017, killing wildlife.
The fine, handed down at Lewes Crown Court, southern England, comes shortly after the UK’s privatised water companies pledged to make massive investments to stop raw sewage being pumped into waterways.
“We are deeply sorry for the entirely unacceptable pollution incident into the Gatwick Stream and River Mole six years ago,” Cathryn Ross, interim co-CEO of Thames Water, said Tuesday.
“It should not have happened, and we deeply regret the incident.”
Ross has replaced Sarah Bentley, who last week resigned as CEO.
The utility, which has 15 million customers, is struggling with debts of nearly £14 billion ($17.8 billion).
Campaigners have meanwhile expressed outrage that the billions of pounds in spending recently announced to upgrade infrastructure would be passed on to consumers already struggling with higher bills under a cost-of-living crisis fuelled by elevated inflation.
Reports said water bills could surge 40 percent by 2030 to fund the works amid mounting concerns over water quality and laxer environmental protections post-Brexit.
Thames Water, meanwhile, could reportedly come under temporary renationalisation as it drowns in debt.