Environment Agency chair calls for tougher penalties for water pollution

Environment Agency (EA) chair, Emma Howard-Boyd, called for water pollution penalties to be made tougher as the Environment Agency published its The state of the environment: water quality report last week.

There was some good news, but clearly more work to do. On serious incidents, the

report found the number has fallen by almost two thirds since 2001. But nonetheless there were 317 serious incidents in 2016: agriculture was found to be the sector most responsible, while the number of serious incidents by water companies remained steady at around 60 a year, as it has been for the past decade.

Howard-Boyd said: “I would like to see fines made proportionate to the turnover of the company and for the courts to apply these penalties consistently. Anything less is no deterrent.”

In terms of more general water health, in 2016, 76% of the tests used to measure the health of rivers were rated good. However, only 14% of rivers reached good ecological status overall. The EA explained: “This is because the failure of one test means the whole water body fails to obtain good or better status. The most common reason for rivers not achieving good status was phosphorus, which produces algae and depletes oxygen. More than half of rivers have been found to have unacceptable levels of phosphorus, caused by sewage effluent and pollutants from farmland.”

The report also showed groundwaters have been deteriorating in quality over the last 60 years with only 53% achieving good chemical status in 2016.

Source: The State of the Environment: Water Quality