A MAJOR firm will pay out over £500,000 in fines after it sent out water unfit for human consumption to residents and businesses across Southampton.

Southern Water was labelled “reckless” by District Judge Anthony Callaway as he condemned the firm for providing water that was “metallic tasting, discoloured and odorous” to 224 homes across Dibden Purlieu, Blackfield, Holbury and Marchwood.

The firm was also fined for supplying 120 properties in Hillyfields, including Holiday Inn Express, water with non-governmental standards of iron and manganese during the same incident.

Southern Water were taken to court by the Drink Water Inspectorate (DWI), which accused the company of breaching rules due to “financial and time pressures” to complete water diversion underneath the new Lidl Distribution Centre in Nursling.

When an old joint burst on October 29 in 2015, the M271 and nearby roads were flooded, causing severe delays to road users.

Mr Callaway told the court that within 30 minutes of the water being diverted, the company received complaints of interrupted water supply and flooding that was described as “tidal”.

Despite the “rusty water” being given to customers, representatives from Southern Water continued to tell the public that “it was safe to drink”.

At a hearing on August 14, the firm pleaded guilty to supplying contaminated water as well as supplying water containing levels of manganese and iron which exceeded the government’s drinking quality standards, during the same incident in October 2015.

In sentencing at Southampton Magistrates’ Court, Mr Callaway issued a £400,000 fine for the first charge and £80,000 for the second.

Following the case, director of compliance and asset resilience, Dr Alison Hoyle said the firm “sincerely apologised and deeply regretted” the disruption and discoloured water after the pipe burst.

Dr Hoyle said: “Since March 2017 a new company structure has been put in place since.

“This includes compliance and asset resilience directorate, where we are focused on improving performance, compliance culture and risk assessments while also making technical improvements.”

DWI said that a further £50,000 costs had been agreed out of court.

Marcus Rink, chief inspector of DWI said: “This was a serious deviation from good practice, and without regard to the impact on consumers in the Southampton area, and warranted intervention by the inspectorate.”