Water company pollution incidents up 9%

A rise by more than 9% in the number of pollution incidents attributed to the nine water and sewerage companies operating in England included a more than doubling of the most serious incidents according to the latest annual figures from the Environment Agency.

The increase in the total number of incidents to 1902 in 2016-17 was “disappointing” according to the agency in its latest annual report, Water and sewerage companies’ performance 2016,

It was the first rise since 2012 the agency reported. Serious pollution incidents to hit a plateau with 57 reported its 2016-17; 59 in the previous year and 61 in 2014 after a tally of 88 in 2013, the agency said.

The number incidents during 2016-17 in the most serious category (category 1) increased to nine with all associated with sewerage. This followed two years of record annual lows of four incidents.

The increased incident numbers coincided with with a record proportion of pollution incidents that were self reported at 72% – up from 69% in 2015. “Very good” compliance with environmental permits at sewage treatment and water treatment works stood firm year on year at 98.6% compared to 98.7% in 2015. Sludge use and disposal was strong with scores of 100% bar one company at 99.97%.

EA’s other expectations of the water companies included:

100% compliance for all licences and permits;

at least 75% of incidents self-reported by 2020; and

management of sewage sludge treatment and re-use should not cause pollution