UNITED Utilities has been fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £1,413 costs after admitting discharging sewage effluent into a Widnes watercourse.

The company admitted two offences of polluting Stewards Brook at St Michael’s golf course in Dundalk Road, in May, 2010, at Runcorn Magistrates Court on November 7.

Jane Morgan, prosecuting for the Environmental Agency, told magistrates that a Halton Council officer had observed sewage discharging from an outfall on two occasions.

The outfall is part of an overflow on the sewer which should only be operated when there are high flows in the sewer in wet weather, when the discharge will be a diluted effluent.

United Utilities had received a number of alarms notifying them of faults with the sewerage system, but their response was inadequate, the court heard.

The alarms had either not been passed out, the overflow not inspected or a decision taken not to attend.

Once the company became aware of the problem, they responded promptly to remove a blockage caused by tree roots and silt and cleaned up the affected area.

United Utilities has carried out a number of actions since the incident and also reinstated monthly inspections, magistrates were told.

After the hearing, environment officer, Steve Butler, said: “There had been previous problems with this overflow in 2005 so United Utilities was aware of the need to ensure that there were no problems caused by blockages or faults.

“If this discharge had remained unnoticed, there could have been significant environmental damage to the local water environment. ”