Official announcement

Water companies could face legal action after investigation launched into sewage treatment works

Major investigation announced by the Environment Agency and Ofwat into sewage treatment works. EA and Ofwat are now looking into all water and sewerage companies to assess the scale of the problem.

Any company caught breaching these minimum standards will face a range of possible enforcement action – up to and including prosecution.

Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the Environment Agency, said:

‘Any water companies in breach of their permits are acting illegally. This is a major issue of public trust. Water company boards must certify every year that they have adequate resources to fulfil their regulated activities. Only now, just before new monitors are installed, have companies reported concerns over potential problems. The EA has begun an immediate investigation of more than 2,000 sewage treatment works and will prosecute where necessary.

The private sector is under increasing pressure to demonstrate tangible commitments on protecting the environment. This shows why we need robust and well-funded regulation to provide the public, investors and customers with assurances about what is being delivered on the ground. I would like to see the levels of penalties for corporate environmental crime in England go up significantly. More attention should also be paid to the directors of companies that are guilty of repeated, deliberate or reckless breaches of environmental law. Such directors should be struck off and in the most grievous cases given custodial sentences.’

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