The British environmental watchdog is demanding massive fines and directors of polluting companies being jailed after an “appalling” performance by England’s nine water and sewage companies.
The Environment Agency is asking the courts to impose much larger fines for serious and intentional pollution incidents and imprisonment for CEOs and board members whose companies are responsible for the most serious incidents.
that of the agency annual report shows that company performance in 2021 has fallen to its lowest level on record, adding: “Despite continued enforcement action against violations of environmental laws, water companies are letting the penalties currently being imposed by the courts don’t be put off.”
Southern Water and South West Water were only rated one star out of four, while four companies were only rated two stars – meaning they need significant improvement.
Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency, said: “It is appalling that water companies’ performance on pollution has hit a new low. Water quality will not improve until water companies get their operational performance under control. For years people have seen that leaders and investors are generously rewarded while the environment pays the price.
“Company leaders have allowed this to happen. We plan to make it too painful for them to continue like this. The amount for which a company can be fined environmental crimes is unlimited, but the fines currently imposed by courts are often less than a CEO’s salary.
“We need courts that impose much higher fines. Investors should no longer view England’s water monopolies as a one-way bet.”
Northumbrian Water, Severn Trent Water and United Utilities performed better and retained their four stars.
The report also shows that seven water utilities had 62 serious incidents in 2021 – the highest since 2013 – and that there has also been no overall improvement in compliance with the conditions for discharges of treated substances sewage for some years.
Susan Davy, Southern Water’s Director of Quality and Environment, said: “Our performance over the past year was not good enough – we strive to do even better for our customers.
“We know we still have a long way to go, but new investments and new ways of working, including major upgrades to our control center and pumping stations, and the introduction of tens of thousands of digital monitors across our network, are already making a difference and driving positive change .”
“I am deeply disappointed to receive this rating for 2021 and this is not where we want to be.
“I want to reassure our customers that the investments and changes we are already making to our network are delivering real results, including reducing pollution by a third in the last year to the lowest number in 10 years.
“One spill is one too many, so we’re committed to continuing to reduce that every year by increasing our 24/7 operations, increasing resource levels by 25% and over the next three 330 million pounds are investing in our sewage network over the years.