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  • by Karma Loveday

Greenpeace accuses the EA of failing to attend 74% of serious pollutions on time

The Environment Agency (EA) is failing to attend three-quarters of major pollution incidents on time, according to research from Greenpeace’s investigative arm, Unearthed.

Greenpeace said data obtained under freedom of information laws showed that between January 2017 and October 2023, the regulator failed to attend 74% of Category 1 or 2 incidents within the targeted times: within two hours during the working day, or four hours at other times.

Of the 3,457 incidents examined, hundreds were not attended for more than a day, while for hundreds more it was weeks or even months before an environment officer arrived on the scene, the research found. For around a quarter of the Category 1 and 2 incidents analysed (947), Unearthed said the EA did not provide any record of the incident being attended at all. These included more than 100 major sewage pollution incidents for which there was no record of any EA attendance.

Greenpeace highlighted that heavy funding cuts by the Conservative Government over the past 14 years have prevented the EA from being able to carry out its job properly, causing the missed response time targets. UK policy director, Doug Parr, said: “It is imperative, if we’re to clean up our sewage-ridden waterways and halt the decline of nature in this country, that the next government properly funds the agency set up to protect our environment.”

Unearth reported the Environment Agency’s response to the investigation as follows: “Attendance not being recorded does not mean that the site was not visited at some stage. It would be impractical to review the details for all incidents to ascertain if there was actual attendance to site”.

The agency also said there were a number of reasons why a Category 1 or 2 incident might not be attended immediately. These included, but were not limited to, “health and safety concerns” and situations “where we are able to deliver an environmental outcome by responding without attendance”.


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