Environmental Agency and Ofwat team up to investigate potential sewage-dumping by water companies
Water companies are facing a fresh investigation from the Environment Agency (EA) and Ofwat, after checks revealed some firms could be releasing un-permitted sewage into rivers and watercourses.
EA and Ofwat are now looking into all water and sewerage companies to assess the scale of the problem.
The investigation will involve over 2000 sewage treatment works, with any company caught breaching legal permits potentially facing prosecution and unlimited fines.
In recent years the EA and Ofwat have been pushing water companies to improve their day-to-day performance and meet progressively higher standards to protect the environment.
The EA has been checking water companies comply with requirements and has asked companies to fit new monitors at sewage treatment works.
This is to make sure the right levels of wastewater are being treated before overflows are allowed to enter the environment.
Following this action by the EA, several water companies have now revealed that many of their sewage treatment works may not be compliant.
This would mean that water companies are in breach of their permits and failing to meet their legal duties
Jonson Cox, chair of Ofwat, said: “Customers pay water companies to treat wastewater and protect and enhance rivers and wildlife. The public will be extremely disappointed if these reports are confirmed. Ofwat takes any reports of water companies breaking the law very seriously.”
Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the Environment Agency, said: “Any water companies in breach of their permits are acting illegally. This is a major issue of public trust. Water company boards must certify every year that they have adequate resources to fulfil their regulated activities. Only now, just before new monitors are installed, have companies reported concerns over potential problems.”
The investigation follows a recent government U-turn last month, where it eventually agreed to require companies by law to show a reduction in sewage overspills.