Phosphates: Pollution Control

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 9th September 2021.

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Photo of David Warburton David Warburton Conservative, Somerton and Frome

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment he has made of the adequacy of the speed of investment in sewage water treatment by Wessex Water to reduce phosphorous discharge.

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

To address water company derived phosphates, the Environment Agency sets limits based on achieving statutory objectives. Improvements to treatment works or through changes to land use are planned on a 5 year cycle of asset improvements with the water companies. Wessex Water is expecting to invest up to £57m across Somerset to achieve phosphate removal targets by 2024.

In addition to regulatory requirements, the EA is working with Wessex Water to trial nature-based solutions such as wetlands and woodlands as part of the government's green recovery initiative. This involves rewarding landowners and farmers for land use changes that will significantly reduce phosphate releases.

There is more to be done to reduce phosphorous discharge from sewage water treatment. The Strategic Policy Statement for Ofwat, which is currently out for consultation, outlines the government's ambition for Ofwat to drive water companies to be more ambitious in their environmental planning and delivery to contribute towards our environmental goals and enhance the quality of the water environment.

We have also introduced the requirement for at least one legally binding water target in the Environment Bill. This target will complement existing regulations and legislation, moving us closer to achieving our goal of clean and plentiful water set out in Defra's 25 Year Environment Plan.

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