Yorkshire Water given low rating following pollution incidents

James Marshall
July 10, 2019

Just one of the UK's major sewage and water companies is living up to its obligations to protect the environment, according to a new report published today by the Environment Agency (EA).

They are under fire from two United Kingdom regulators this week, with one warning penalties could be increased for environmental failures and another planning to block shareholder payouts if their finances are not robust.

The report follows the agency's announcement that Southern Water is facing prosecution after it was hit with a record £126m penalty package over "shocking" failures in its sewage treatment sites.

The regulator also warned four top water firms it was "disappointed" over their efficiency last week, amid growing calls from Labour and unions for re-nationalisation 30 years after the sector was privatised.

Yorkshire Water has been given one of the lowest ratings in the country for its "unacceptable" environmental performance.

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Most water companies look set to fail to meet 2020 pollution targets, it warns.

"Six out of nine companies are rated good or better in the assessment, and the most serious pollution incidents are down 18% on the previous year, but there is much more to do across the board to achieve the high standards which people rightly expect water companies to meet".

The company, which saw a rise in the number of serious pollution incidents to 12, was given two stars alongside Southern Water and South West Water.

Southern Water provides water and sewerage services for the eastern side of the New Forest, and sewerage only for the western side.

Four companies - Severn Trent, Southern Water, Wessex Water and Yorkshire Water - had increased numbers of serious pollution incidents compared with 2017.

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

Writing in the report's foreword, she said: "Companies should be reflecting on their environmental performance and long-term resilience, if this is poor they should be asking themselves whether dividends are justifiable".

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

Just one company - Northumbrian Water - gained a four-star rating from the EA, with the rest scoring three stars or below, the threshold at which companies must improve their environmental performance.

Water firms face the threat of potential re-nationalisation if Labour comes to power, with shares dipping when the party recently confirmed plans to bring the industry under state ownership.

Again this year South West Water is poor performing and has consistently demonstrated unacceptable performance and a red rating for pollution incidents. 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.

"We will increase our inspections and auditing of companies" performance.

"We will continue to challenge CEOs to improve company performance and we will take strong and appropriate enforcement action".

Anglian Water has been ranked at a level three for the second year in a row meaning that the company needs to improve the effect it has on the environment.

The report said: "We expect companies to prevent serious pollution incidents ..."

"This includes continued investment in our monitoring capabilities, equipment, site upgrades and staff training".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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