Water Companies: Pollution

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered at on 4 October 2022.

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Photo of Fleur Anderson Fleur Anderson Shadow Paymaster General

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps the Government is taking to deter directors of water companies from contravening legislation on sewage dumping.

Photo of Trudy Harrison Trudy Harrison The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

We have increased the number of storm overflows monitored across the network from 5% in 2016 to almost 90% now, and we will reach 100% cover by end of next year. Following new data coming to light as a result of increased monitoring, the regulators (the Environment Agency and Ofwat) have launched the largest criminal and civil investigations into water company sewage discharges ever, at over 2200 treatment works.

We have been clear with the regulators that they should not hesitate to use their existing statutory powers to hold companies to account. For example, this can include criminal prosecution by the Environment Agency for which there can be unlimited fines. Since 2015, the Environment Agency has brought 54 prosecutions against water companies, securing fines of almost £140 million.

The Environment Secretary also held a call with water company chief executives on his first day in office, to outline that their current performance is not good enough, and that customers and the environment deserve better. We asked all water companies to write to HM Government on how they will significantly improve their environmental performance and are now working with them to establish where they can do more, and opportunities to speed up delivery.

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