Environment Agency tells water companies to clean up their act

James Marshall
July 10, 2019

Performance in 2018 was simply unacceptable ... rather than improving, the performance of most companies has deteriorated, reversing the trend of gradual improvement since we introduced the environmental performance assessment in 2011.

"We recognise there is still more to do and we have an action plan in place to continue to drive improvement, focusing in particular on further reducing the number of Category 3 incidents, those that have a minor or minimal impact on the environment - the only area where the EA assess that we are below the industry average".

Environment Agency Chair Emma Howard Boyd, who has previously warned water companies they would face a tougher regulatory approach with increasing inspections, is pledging that the Environment Agency will continue to work with Ofwat to look at financial penalties to drive better environmental performance given fines are now only a fraction of turnover.

SOUTHERN WATER has been blasted for its "unacceptable" performance protecting the environment - less than two weeks since it was hit with a record £126m penalty for "reckless" mismanagement. "With only one exception, none of the companies are performing at the level we wish to see, the country expects and the environment needs", he said.

"We remain on track to deliver our 2020 targets where we are aiming for zero serious and significant pollution incidents, a further reduction in other incidents and 100% compliance with wastewater permits".

Southern Water, South West Water and Yorkshire Water were all accused of "unacceptable" performance on the environment with two stars out of four.

The UK's water giants have been accused of "simply unacceptable" failures in their treatment of the environment, with an increase in serious incidents of pollution for the first time in six years.

Dr Toby Willison, executive director of operations, said: "Water companies need to clean up their act".

And although we are seeing a constructive approach in how they're dealing with these challenges, we want to see their performance improve to reduce the company's impact on the environment.

The company is among those being "named and shamed" by the Environment Agency in their annual report.

Environment Agency chair Emma Howard Boyd questioned whether badly performing companies should be paying out dividends to shareholders.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: "Water companies have a responsibility to distribute our most precious natural resource, and must act as stewards of our environment".

"Northumbrian Water have demonstrated that real improvements can be made, and all water companies must now follow their lead, drop the excuse-mongering and prove that they take their environmental obligations seriously".

"We will continue to work alongside the Environment Agency to achieve this".

"Particularly in the last decade, some companies have not been as transparent as they should have been".

The £18.1 billion paid out in dividends was actually nearly all of the profit made by water companies after tax - the total profit was £18.8 billion over the same period.

"Indeed Thames has paid no corporation tax for a decade".

"By investing in the latest technology and state of the art monitoring, we know more about when, where and why pollutions occur, allowing us to focus our investment where it will have the biggest impact".

He added that Thames, Southern, Anglian and Yorkshire make "particularly keen use of sophisticated financial engineering".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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