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ENVIRONMENT AGENCY SLATES ENVIRONMENTAL PERFOMANCE OF WATER AND SEWERAGE COMPANIES

Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency, wrote a highly critical foreword in July 2019 to the 2018 report on the environmental performance of the 9 water and sewerage companies operating in England.

She described this performance as “simply unacceptable” (a comment picked up and endorsed by Michael Gove as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in his Kew Gardens speech of 16 July 2019 – see separate report on that on this website).

Emma Howard Boyd noted that –

  • with one exception, none of the companies are performing at the level the environment needs;

  • rather than improving, the performance of most companies has deteriorated, reversing the trend of gradual improvement since we introduced the [annual Environmental Performance Assessment] in 2011;

  • serious pollution incidents which damage the local environment, threaten wildlife and in the worst cases put the public at risk, have increased.

In a direct warning which should be noted by the water and sewerage companies, she added that …”as a result we will toughen our regulatory approach…

We will increase our inspections and auditing of companies’ performance. We will launch a new programme called ‘Improving Water Company Performance’. This will focus on the poor performing companies and on tackling the behaviour which is doing most damage to the environment. This includes failure to prevent serious pollution incidents, non-compliance with permits and the wrong use of sludge. We will continue to work with Ofwat, and we will prioritise looking at financial penalties to drive better environmental performance. Fines are currently only a fraction of turnover…If [companies’ environmental performance and long-term resilience] is this poor they should be asking themselves whether dividends are justifiable.’

These are significant statements from a senior regulator, and it is notable that they have already been picked up and endorsed by the outgoing Secretary of State.

For further information please contact William Wilson at info@wyesideconsulting.com, tel +44(0)1225-730-407

WaterWilliam Wilson