Severn Trent Water’s efforts to protect environment ‘unacceptable’

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A water company serving Gedling borough has today been slammed by a government agency who described their efforts to protect the environment as ‘unacceptable’

Severn Trent Water were one of the companies highlighted in an Environment Agency (EA) report published today (July 10) with only one of the major water and sewage companies in England performing at the level expected.

The annual report rates each of water and sewerage companies in England as either green, amber or red on a range of measures including serious pollution, pollution per km of sewer pipes, supply resilience, self-reporting of pollution and complying with permits.

The report said Severn Trent Water had dropped from 4 stars to 3 stars – meaning they must improve their performance to reduce their impact on the environment.

This meant the firm had increased numbers of serious pollution incidents compared with 2017.

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Overall water company performance has deteriorated which reverses the trend of gradual improvement in the sector since the rating system began in 2011. Serious pollution incidents increased in 2018 causing damage to the rivers and wildlife. 

Emma Howard Boyd, the EA chair, said the Environment Agency will continue to work with Ofwat to look at financial penalties to drive better environmental performance given fines are currently only a fraction of turnover.

She said “Companies should be reflecting on their environmental performance and long-term resilience, if this is poor they should be asking themselves whether dividends are justifiable.”

Northumbrian Water was the only company achieving the highest 4 star rating, showing that it is possible to bring in good environmental practices and limit the impact of operations on nature.

Executive Director of Operations Dr Toby Willison said: “Water companies need to clean up their act. People expect water companies to improve the environment, not pollute rivers and ensure secure supplies of water.

With only one exception, none of the companies are performing at the level we wish to see, the country expects and the environment needs. We will continue to challenge CEOs to improve company performance and we will take strong and appropriate enforcement action. 

“Companies performing well have a positive ripple effect on the natural environment and communities in their regions. We want all water companies to meet the expectation of their customers, the needs of environment and learn from the best practice that the leading company is demonstrating.”

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Severn Trent Water has responded following the report’s findings.

The firm, who still achieved the second highest rating, said “We’re obviously disappointed to be 3* this year but we’re determined to reclaim the top rating next year.

“We’ve been consistently 3* or 4* over the past seven years, with 4*, the top mark possible, in 2013, 2015 and 2017.

“Our figures are largely flat year-on-year but that does mask some real successes that we’ve had. For example, the Severn is now clean enough for a project to reintroduce large numbers of shad, a type of fish sensitive to pollution, into the river to be possible.

“In addition, we’ve set ourselves tougher targets than called for by the EA in certain areas, such as phosphate removal, to further improve the quality of the rivers in our region.”


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