Sewage: Pollution

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 29th July 2019.

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Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham Labour, Coventry South

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps he is taking to ensure water companies reduce the number of pollution incidents.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Since 1995 over £25 billion has been invested in improving sewage treatment and sewerage collection systems. This has achieved a 61% reduction in the amount of phosphorus and a 72% reduction in the amount of ammonia discharged to rivers. Bathing waters and rivers are cleaner than ever but there is still more to do. The recent deterioration in the environmental performance of the water industry, particularly in respect of pollution incidents is unacceptable. The Environment Agency (EA) expect the industry to minimise serious pollution incidents and approach a zero target by 2020.

The EA has begun a new Improving Water Company Performance programme which will toughen regulation to encourage the companies to meet their environmental targets. The programme will include:

  • Enhancing the EA’s regulatory tools and approaches, including more inspections, increasing the number of in-depth audits and greater use of technology to remotely monitor operations twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

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

  • Updating the Environmental Performance Assessment targets 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.

  • Requiring water companies to produce root cause analysis reports for serious pollution incidents and to learn from them.

  • Requiring water companies to produce a pollution reduction plan signed off at CEO level which they will be accountable for.

  • Requesting that they proactively share good practice as an industry wide response to the problems we are facing

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