Major water firms investigated over 6,000 potential illegal sewage spills in one year

Staff
By Staff
3 Min Read

BBC News has uncovered data suggesting that major English water companies may have illegally discharged raw sewage almost 6,000 times in 2022 when it was not raining, including during the country’s record-breaking heatwave.

According to BBC analysis of spill data from nine water firms, sewage spills occurred outside of rainy periods, contrary to legal guidelines.

Water companies are permitted to release untreated sewage during rainfall to prevent flooding of homes, but such practices are prohibited during dry weather.

The companies have acknowledged public concerns over dry weather spills but dispute the BBC’s interpretation of the data.

They argue that the spill data shared with the Environment Agency was preliminary and unverified, and they disagree with the BBC’s criteria for defining a dry weather spill, which they claim differs from the Environment Agency’s approach.

An Environment Agency spokesperson told Energy Live News: “We welcome the focus on this critical issue. 100% of storm overflows are now monitored which helps us to ensure water companies are operating within their permits. 

“We are increasing our water company inspections fourfold this year, with up to 500 additional staff and making better use of data and intelligence to inform our work and hold water companies to account.

“We will always pursue and prosecute companies that are deliberately obstructive or misleading, and take action if they are found to have breached the conditions of their permits.”

An Ofwat spokesperson told Energy Live News: “Water and wastewater companies’ performance on the environment is simply not good enough, and they need to go further, faster.

“Where companies fall short, Ofwat acts – over recent years, we have imposed penalties and payments of over £300 million and in November 2021, we announced our biggest and most complex investigation into all companies’ management of sewage treatment works in England and Wales, with live cases into six companies.”

Energy Live News has contacted the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for comment.

Copyright © 2024 Energy Live News LtdELN

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