Watchdog slaps sixth water firm with enforcement case over sewage dumping
South West Water is the latest supplier in Ofwat’s crosshairs, with the watchdog announcing an enforcement case against the company amid concerns over its environmental performance.
Ofwat has now issued South West Water with an information request – to determine whether it is complying with its environmental obligations over treating sewage water.
This follows the regulator opening enforcement cases into five water companies earlier this year – including Anglian Water, Northumbrian Water, Thames Water, Wessex Water and Yorkshire Water.
Alongside the enforcement cases, Ofwat and the Environmental Agency announced investigations into all water and wastewater companies last November.
This was after several water companies revealed they might not be treating as much sewage at their wastewater treatment works as they should be, and that this could be resulting in sewage discharges into rivers and other environments without permission to do so.
The admissions to Ofwat were prompted by the installation of new monitoring equipment, which are currently being placed over 2,200 wastewater treatment works in England.
Ofwat’s investigation currently centres on Flow to Full Treatment – the measure of how much wastewater a treatment works must be able to treat at any time.
The current focus of the investigation is to understand if and how often water companies are breaking the conditions of their environmental permits at their wastewater treatment works.
Wastewater treatment works have environmental permits that set out conditions, including how the company must treat wastewater before any discharges can be made from the treatment works into the local environment.
These permits are issued by the Environment Agency – which is also responsible for enforcing them.
All wastewater treatment works are built to be able to deal with a certain amount of wastewater, calculated depending on the area they serve.
South West Water is a subsidiary of FTSE 250 company Pennon Group.
A Pennon Group spokesperson said: “We will continue to work openly and constructively with Ofwat to comply with the formal notice issued to South West Water as part of this ongoing investigation.”
Shares in the company are down seven per cent this morning following the announcement.