• by Karma Loveday

Four firms pay £1.5m to green schemes to make up for pollution


Wessex Water, United Utilities, Yorkshire Water and Northumbrian Water were among a clutch of companies named last week by the Environment Agency for paying hundreds of thousands of pounds each to green charities and projects under enforcement undertakings following environmental offences.

Wessex Water accounted for nearly half the £2.2m total pledged in the Agency’s list. The company made the largest ever financial contribution of £975,000 for an environmental offence involving sewage spills at Swanage in Dorset. The funds will benefit Dorset Waste Partnership, Dorset Litter Free Coast and Sea Project, Purbeck District Council/Swanage Town Council and Durlston Country Park and Nature Reserve.

Meanwhile United Utilities paid £232,000 benefitting Mersey Rivers Trust and Community Forest Trust for discharging sewage into a brook; Yorkshire Water paid £200,000 benefitting Yorkshire Wildlife Trust for polluting a river; and Northumbrian paid £135,000 benefitting Durham Wildlife Trust, Wear Rivers Trust and the Marine Conservation Society for polluting a stream.

As well as making these payments, each company accepted liability, demonstrated restoration of harm and pledged to make improvements to avoid future offences.

Ellie Brodie, senior policy manager at The Wildlife Trusts said: “Obviously, we would have been happier if these incidents hadn’t occurred at all. However, it’s a good principle that polluters should offer redress for the damage they cause. The money will enable work which will benefit wildlife and wild places, and which otherwise wouldn’t be funded. We hope these payments serve as a reminder to business of its responsibility towards a clean and healthy environment; and also have a deterrent effect as it’s clearly cheaper to do things cleanly, rather than risk creating pollution.”

The Environment Agency said it is increasingly using enforcement undertakings for suitable cases to restore or enhance the environment, improve practices of the offending business and ensure future compliance with environmental requirements. However prosecutions will still be taken, particularly in the most serious cases.

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