The government’s environmental watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), has identified possible failures to comply with environmental law by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Environment Agency and Ofwat in relation to the regulation of combined sewer overflows (CSOs).

The failures relate to a possible misinterpretation of the law, which states that untreated sewage discharges should generally be allowed only in exceptional circumstances, such as during unusually heavy rainfall. The OEP thinks that the public authorities may have interpreted the law differently, permitting such discharges to occur more often.

The OEP launched an investigation into the regulation of CSOs by the three public authorities in June last year after receiving a complaint alleging failures to comply with legal duties relating to the monitoring and enforcement of water companies’ management of sewage.

The public authorities have two months to respond to the Information Notices. The responses will allow them to set out whether they agree with the OEP’s view, and whether they agree or not, set out any proposed remedial action or practical measures to address issues.

Story covered in the Guardian.

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