SOUTHERN Water could face a big fine after being accused of more than 8,000 sewage breaches.

The Worthing-based company has been charged with 51 counts of breaching environmental regulations over a five-year period between 2010 and 2015. The charges came about after the Environment Agency launched a criminal investigation into it.

Andrew Marshall, prosecuting, told Maidstone Magistrates Court 8,400 unlawful and non-compliant incidents of sewage “escaping” the plants had occurred at 17 sites, 4,000 of which had lasted for more than an hour.

Southern Water faces 46 charges of contravening the requirements of an environmental permit and five charges of cause poisonous/noxious/polluting matter/waste to enter controlled waters.

A company spokesman said: “Since he joined in 2017, chief executive Ian McAulay has been driving thorough internal reviews of our wastewater business and is leading a major transformation programme.”

The case was committed to Maidstone Crown Court where the next hearing will be on March 11.