Long-serving Severn Trent employee recalls the day MILLIONS of pints of beer had to be poured away 

20th June 2024

Peter Fell recalled the many highlights from his 52-year Severn Trent career and then the one low point – having to help pour MILLIONS of pints of beer away during lockdown.

The Trade Effluent Specialist is the second longest serving employee at the water company, which employs some 9,000 people across the Midlands.

The dad-of-one has spent most of his career preventing sewer misuse by ensuring companies do not breach discharge licences, a vital role in helping to protect the environment.

He said developing positive relationships with hundreds of business customers over the years had been one of the most fulfilling parts of his Warwickshire-based job.

But he also recalled some of the most painful days in his role, during the initial Covid lockdown in early 2020.

“I remember we had to pour millions of gallons of beers away during that first lockdown,” he said.

“All the pubs had been forced to close across the region, so they needed to dispose of all the kegs of beer they could no longer use.

“Millions of gallons were disposed of at our sewage treatment works across the region – what a shame that was!”

Peter began his career in the water industry in 1972 as a school leaver working for Royal Leamington Spa Borough Council, two years before Severn Trent was formed.

“I’d had a summer holiday job at a local sewage works at Heathcote, Warwick, when I was 15 and then did another six weeks the following year after leaving school.

“I was asked if I wanted to become a trainee chemist, a job which included testing sewage and trade effluent.

“I’d done chemistry at school, but was not particularly good at it – but they took me on anyway! I loved the job as you did all kinds of things back then, including even grass cutting, moving sludge from the drying beds  and working on the grounds at the site.”

When Severn Trent was formed in 1974, teenage Peter moved to a laboratory at Longbridge sewage treatment works in Warwick.

But when a job came up in Trade Effluent at Finham sewage treatment works he switched to the new role, which he excelled at - and continues in to this day.

He said: “I really enjoyed that side of the business because it meant going out and meeting customers, taking samples and not being tied to a desk.

“The main parts of the role were monitoring discharges, investigating potential pollutions and ensuring businesses were compliant with their conditions and not discharging unlawfully.

“The skills needed for this job are being patient, but forceful when required. You also have to listen to what customers are telling you to build up a strong relationship and create trust.”

Over the years Peter and the wider Trade Effluent team have been involved in prosecuting companies who illegally discharge into sewers, but those cases are thankfully relatively rare.

He said: “I’ve always had a passion for the environment, so it’s been great doing a job that really makes a difference.

“There are no negatives to this job. It’s been a really fulfilling career and I have no plans to retire any time soon.”

And another big positive from the early days of the job was cementing his relationship with his then girlfriend, Judith - who has now been his wife of 41 years.

Peter, who lives in Warwick, said: “Judith used to work in the regional laboratory where the Severn Trent Academy is now based in Coventry.

“As we lived near each other in Leamington at the time, I used to bring her in to work every day.”

The couple went on to marry and have one son, Andrew, who works in HR at Liverpool University.

Only one person has worked longer at Severn Trent than Peter – Clive Turner, who has completed 53 years as a technical operator in Derbyshire, helping maintain reservoirs.

Peter looked back on his own incredible career as Severn Trent celebrates its 50th anniversary. A series of articles are planned, titled: “Our people, proudly serving our region for 50 years.”

“Severn Trent has been a great company to work for,” he said. “There’s a fantastic culture here and I’ve been lucky to work with some wonderful people over the years.”

Post-lockdown, we can all drink to that…