This was rather lost in the WFD announcement but reveals a worrying failure of commitment and regulation, but the clock is ticking.

Angling Trust and Fish Legal: The Environment Agency is unable to properly regulate 1,968 sewage outfalls because water companies are failing to provide information to them about exactly what is coming out of these pipes, a freedom of information request by the Angling Trust and Fish Legal has uncovered.

Several thousand outfalls were given ‘temporary’ deemed consents at the time of privatisation of the water industry in 1989 (see note 1), because there were no legal permits for these discharges at all. The Environment Agency is now trying to draw up bespoke environmental permits so that they can take enforcement action against water companies in the event that discharges from the remaining poorly-regulated sewage outfalls pollute rivers, lakes or coastal waters.

However, in order to draft modern permits which will help them meet water quality standards, the Environment Agency require information from water companies concerning the frequency and content of their discharges.

The information received shows a very patchy response from the water companies with some, such as Anglian Water, United Utilities and Yorkshire Water, not having made much progress at all, whilst Wessex Water and South West Water have made the most progress. The delay in progress is because companies have repeatedly failed to provide the information required by the Environment Agency.

The water companies have been given a deadline by the Environment Agency of the end of January 2016 to provide full information about these discharges. If they fail to meet the deadline, the Angling Trust and Fish Legal plan to use their newly secured right to request environmental information directly from the water companies (see note 4) to find out exactly how much raw sewage is being discharged from the remaining 1,968 sewage outfalls and how regularly.

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