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  • by Karma Loveday

Environment Agency demands more as half of firms achieve top green rating

Five companies – the most ever – achieved the maximum four-star rating in the Environment Agency’s 2020 Environmental Performance Assessment, which rates English water firms on their green performance including on pollution and compliance.

Northumbrian, Severn Trent, United Utilities, Wessex and Yorkshire all received the top rating, with Severn Trent, United Utilities and Wessex all praised especially for sustained sustained strong performance, achieving four stars at least three times in the last five years.

Among the other highlights of this year’s report were that serious incidents (category 1 and 2) declined for the second year in a row and were at the lowest number ever; that the industry coped well with Covid; and that 99.2% of treatment works were compliant with permit conditions for discharging treated wastewater – the highest number ever.

At the other end of the table were Southern Water and South West Water, who each received two stars (requires improvement). Each was below target for the sewerage incidents metric, and South West Water was the only company significantly below target for the serious incidents metric. Defra said environment secretary George Eustice and environment minister Rebecca Pow will be meeting Southern Water and South West Water respectively in the coming months.

Official messaging focused on the need for the industry to do more, with the headline being that while progress had been made, too many water companies are still falling short. The Environment Agency noted: “Whilst there were improvements in 2020, no single company achieved all the expectations for the period 2015 to 2020. These included the reduction of total pollution incidents by at least one-third compared with 2012 and for incident self-reporting to be at least 75%.”

Chair Emma Howard Boyd reported: “I have been meeting water company chairs in the last few weeks to set out our expectations for them to redouble their efforts to improve or maintain their environmental performance, something which continues to be a priority for both customers and shareholders.”

Pow said: “This report which spans the last 12 months makes for extremely disappointing reading. Even the industry-leading water companies have more work to do, especially on the use of storm overflows.”


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