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Water Companies: Pollution Control

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN HL17098, tabled on 10 July 2019

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure that water companies meet targets set by the Environment Agency to reduce pollution by 2020.

Answered on

24 July 2019

The Environment Agency (EA) regularly tracks water company performance and was concerned that sufficient improvements were not being made to meet our targets prior to this year’s poor results.

In response to these results, the EA is taking action and there will be:

  • An increased number of audits and inspections.

  • Requests for companies to produce root cause analysis reports for serious pollution incidents in order to learn from them.

  • Requests for each company to produce a pollution reduction plan signed off at Chief Executive Office (CEO) level which they will be accountable for.

  • Requests for the companies to share good practice proactively as an industry wide response to the problems we are facing.

In addition, in July 2019, the EA has set up a new ‘Improving Water Company Performance’ programme which will tighten regulation to encourage water companies to meet their environmental targets. It is extensive and we anticipate it will take some time to deliver fully.

The programme will include:

  • Enhancing the EA’s regulatory tools, including more and better quality inspections, audits and greater use of technology to remotely monitor operations 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

  • Maximising the use of enforcement and sanctions powers to ensure they act as a powerful deterrent.

  • Updating the Environmental Performance Assessment for the 2021-2025 period to include a broader range of measures with tightened standards where appropriate.

  • Working with Ofwat to develop greater links between environmental performance and financial penalties and incentives.

  • Improving our regulation of sewage sludge treatment and disposal to ensure it is sufficiently robust to protect against emerging risks such as chemicals, antimicrobial resistance and micro-plastics.