Watchdog reports £3m in alternatives to prosecution used on water companies

The Environment Agency in the past seven months has accepted some £3.1m from water companies in controversial alternatives to prosecution known as enforcement undertakings (EUs).

The Agency issues EUs in instances “where the damage [companies] have done can best be remedied quickly by local partners,” whereby companies make donations to appropriate environmental organisations.

The agency’s latest mandated publication of EUs lists 13 cases against seven water companies among about 45 cases in total. The water company payments were:

  • £1.179m from Northumbrian Water for five cases;

  • £1.065m from United Utilities for three cases;

  • £350,000 from South West Water for one case;

  • £226,000 from Severn Trent Water for one case;

  • £200,000 fromYorkshire Water for one case;

  • £35,000 from Wessex Water for one case; and

  • £25,000 from Southern Water for one case

EU’s were recently criticised in the national press as allowing the companies to “set their own fines”. Chair of the Environment Agency, Emma Howard Boyd, responded publicly saying, “Whether or not to accept an EU rather than prosecute is our decision, not the companies’.”

The latest listed payments were, according to the agency, made between 20 October 2018 and 22 May 2019 and may include previously unpublished details of EUs accepted between 1 June and 19 October 2018.