JOYOUS campaigners have claimed a 'David and Goliath' victory over bosses of Mogden Sewage Works.
A High Court judge today (Thursday, December 8) ruled Thames Water, which runs the Isleworth plant, had breached its duty to tackle the pong.
Lawyers representing residents said this week they expected the final bill for compensation to run into the millions.
Responding to claims of negligence, Judge Mr Justice Ramsay found the water company had lacked a long-term odour management and investment strategy since 1990.
Thames Water was ordered to pay a total of just over £20,000 in damages to 15 residents but an application for an injunction against the firm was rejected.
The initial payouts will be used as a guide when deciding compensation for the remainder of the residents involved in the legal battle, with other claims now possible. Law firm Hugh James, which represented the residents, said it expects the final compensation bill to run into the millions.
The legal case was launched in 2006 by 1,350 residents living near the sewage works over the stench and problems with mosquitoes.
Steve Taylor, one of claimants, of Weavers Close, Isleworth, said: "I hope this case shows David can take on Goliath in our legal system and win. The case was never about money; it was about holding Thames Water to account for the problems it has caused us over the last 10 years. The huge impact on ordinary people's lives and on the environment cannot be underestimated."
Mr Taylor hailed the case as the 'first of its kind in the UK' and one which could have a 'major influence' on the way sewage works are operated.
Thames Water chief executive Martin Baggs said: "We accept we caused an odour nuisance from Mogden at various times between 1999 and 2007. We apologise to the residents affected and we do not intend to contest the damages awarded by the judge.
"We are currently in the middle of a £140 million upgrade of the works, which will boost its capacity by 50 per cent, improve treatment processes and further reduce odour by covering the most odorous parts of the works which are not already covered."
Neil Stockdale, of Hugh James, said: "This result is a vindication of the residents' genuine desire to protect their environment from blight."
Mr Justice Ramsay accepted 18 of 30 allegations of negligence made against Thames Water and ruled the company had breached residents' human rights.
Making his ruling, he said: "They (Thames Water) did not do what they should have done as a public authority in relation to the rights of the claimants."
He awarded 15 claimants at 10 addresses a total of just over £20,000 in compensation, with that figure to be used as a guide when deciding compensation for other residents. However, he said only the owners of the claim properties, and not their children or other people living there, were entitled to damages.
He also refused to grant an injunction against Thames Water, saying he was not satisfied there was a continuing nuisance caused by breach of duty.