Environment Agency slams water company data

The Environment Agency today issued a damming comment on performance data supplied water companies. Recent news about the extent of untreated sewage discharges may have been understating the extent of the problem, partly because fewer outfalls are monitored than the water companies claim.

On it’s official blog the Environment Agency said that:

“Overall the water companies are claiming 96% EDM (Event Duration Monitors) coverage; however this is … wrong. The official data shows it is in fact 91%. In addition, in this year’s annual returns, there were a number of additional storm overflows reported by some water companies and some monitors are not operating as reliably as we expect.

It is the water companies’ responsibility to notify us about any storm overflow, pumping station or wastewater treatment works which does not have an environmental permit. They should apply for the permit as soon as possible after they identify the offending discharge.”

The water companies also appear to have been making unsubstantiated claims about their “improved” performance.

”The 2022 EDM data shows a decrease in spills, which reflects last year’s drier than average weather. Despite claims by water companies and Water UK, the body that represents their interests, there is no evidence to show it is because of water company action. In fact, last year water companies only made improvements to 65 storm overflows – less than 0.5% of the overall total of overflows in the entire system – so we are very confident that water company action has not significantly contributed to the reduction in flows overall. For them to claim otherwise is wilfully misleading.

What is very clear from the data they have provided is that the number of spills they are allowing on the sewage network is far too high and totally unacceptable. We are considering whether any action is required under our Enforcement and Sanctions Policy.”


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