SOUTHERN Water has admitted 8,400 incidents of sewage “escaping” from water treatment plants.

In court, the utilities giant pleaded guilty to 46 charges of contravening the requirements of an environmental permit and five charges of “causing poisonous/noxious/polluting matter/waste to enter controlled waters.”

The company, which is responsible for collecting and treating wastewater in Kent, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, West Sussex, and East Sussex admitted the breaches between 2010 and 2015 at Maidstone Crown Court.

The incidents occurred at the Eastchurch Wastewater Treatment Works on the Isle of Sheppey, Swalecliffe Wastewater Treatment Works, and plants at Queenborough, Sittingbourne, Herne Bay, Teynham and the Diamond Road Combined Sewer Overflow in Whitstable.

They also face charges in relation to plants in Hampshire and all carry financial penalties.

At a previous hearing Andrew Marshall, for the prosecution, said 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.

Judge Adele Williams allowed the indictment to be signed by the lawyer rather than have every charge read out.

The case is now expected to be heard by High Court judge Mrs Justice Philippa Whipple. A spokesman for the company said at an earlier hearing: “We will be as open and transparent as possible.”