Water companies must do more to protect the environment, according to a new report from the Environment Agency.
The Agency’s Water and Sewerage Companies’ Environmental Performance Report says that although there is a change in attitude to environmental protection, there is still be room for a major improvement in the performance of the water and sewage industry in England.
Severn Trent, United Utilities and Wessex were the top performing companies, receiving a “better than expected” grade in most of the categories and scoring four stars overall. But South West Water and Northumbrian Water were the poorest performers, failing to tackle pollution and permit compliance issues.
In response to the results, Environment Agency chair Emma Howard Boyd, said that fines for the Category 1 pollution incidents should be proportionate to a water company’s turnover. As a result of 16 successful prosecutions by the Environment Agency, fines totalling more than £21M have been issued.
Environment Agency executive operations director Toby Willison said: “The leading companies in this report show that reducing their environmental impact can be done, so we look to companies to share good practice and improve quickly. But one serious pollution incident is one too many. We will always work closely with companies who want to do the right thing but we will take action against those who don’t.”
In addition to the fines, the water and sewage industry is expected to invest a total of £5bn in environmental improvements by 2025.
Overall, collaboration between the Environment Agency and the water and sewage industry is successful, according to the report. Water quality has improved and is at its highest in over a century. The industry is also focusing on water supply capacity, ensuring that the water companies can provide for the ever-growing population.