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Welcome watchdog action to tackle illegal waste in our waters

18 November 2021

Responding to the Environment Agency and Ofwat taking legal action against water companies for breaching sewage discharge permits, Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said:

“For too long poor monitoring of sewage overflow permits has been a "get out of jail free" card for some water companies to pollute with impunity. Under-reporting, inaction, and failure to comply with statutory duties to reduce harm to our rivers and wildlife, are unacceptable, and incompatible with stopping nature's decline by 2030.

“This crackdown on illegal dumping of waste in our waters is welcome. But we need government to ensure our underfunded water watchdogs have a full armory of financial and legal options available to ensure that corporate environmental crime does not go unpunished.

“Alongside more enforcement resources, Ofwat’s current water price review should also place a heavy emphasis on investing in nature to help restore water quality for everyone.”


Notes to Editors:

• In 2019, the total number of pollution incidents across Water and Sewage Companies was at the worst level in 5 years, and in 2020 raw sewage was discharged into rivers and coastal waters across England over 400,000 times, for over 3 million hours
• Our freshwater biodiversity underpins productive, efficient and stable ecosystems, yet these species and habitats are in steep decline; 90% of our wetland habitats have been lost in the last 100 years
• Despite an increase in remit the Environment Agency has almost a fifth (17.8%) fewer permanent staff than a decade ago.

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