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About time! Angling Trust and Fish Legal welcome announcement to crack down on water companies
The Angling Trust and Fish Legal have welcomed the announcement that the Environment Agency and OFWAT have launched a major investigation into sewage treatment works, after the prospect of new checks led water companies to admit that they could be releasing unpermitted sewage discharges into rivers and watercourses.
Their investigation will involve more than 2,000 sewage treatment works, with any company caught breaching their legal permits facing enforcement action, including fines or prosecutions. Fines can be unlimited in criminal proceedings.
Stuart Singleton-White, Angling Trust Head of Campaigns, said:
“This move by the EA and OFWAT is long overdue. It is good to see they have finally woken up to what has been staring them in the face for a long time. It has taken the persistent campaigning work by the Angling Trust, anglers, and many other NGOs, local groups, and the outrage of the public, for them to finally get their act together.
“Detailed work on sewage treatment works and storm overflows by Peter Hammond of the Windrush Against Sewage Pollution (WASP) campaign group exposed the level of lawbreaking and non-compliance that is taking place – something the EA should have known all along.”
Martin Salter, Angling Trust Head of Policy, said:
“It’s about time we saw action rather than words but there’s much more that needs to be done. We need to see stronger regulation through a properly funded Environment Agency and we need to see robust new obligations placed on OFWAT to release the investment to overhaul and upgrade our creaking wastewater infrastructure. The government needs to take the lead and ensure that its forthcoming strategic policy statement for water will drive the actions needed to give us a pathway out of pollution.”
Fish Legal have taken polluters to court – and won – on numerous occasions, often in cases where the Environment Agency has not taken enforcement action.
Fish Legal’s Head of Practice, Penny Gane, said:
“Finally! In our experience, the biggest battle is trying to convince the Environment Agency that you have identified a problem. Fish Legal presented a list of 12 potentially problematic treatment works to the Agency for further investigation in 2018 during their ‘strategic monitoring review’. We used local examples to illustrate systemic failures in wastewater treatment. In our case, the Agency asked the water companies what was going on at the works in question and the water companies responded that they had not identified any significant operational issues. That was the end of it! No further investigation by the Environment Agency.
“The Environment Agency has for years chosen to minimise or otherwise explain-away the very obvious fact that these private companies essentially see our rivers, lakes and coastal waters as an extension of their sewerage network. All it took was the prospect of better monitoring at sewage treatment works for them to reveal what they must have known all along: that they are not complying with their environmental permits on what appears to be a massive scale.”
The Angling Trust is calling on the government to ensure this is only the first of a series of actions that will flow from the fact the Environment Act has now been passed into law. During the passage of the Act, the government made a series of commitments to clean up our rivers and waters. Through the Anglers Against Pollution campaign, which is supported by leading tackle retailer Orvis UK, and the work of Fish Legal we will continue to ensure they are as good as their word.