WATER FIRMS have been slammed for their environmental impact after a damning report from the Environment Agency.

River pollution truths were exposed in the EA’s annual report into the water and sewage industry.

It showed just one out of the nine regional companies in England is performing at the level expected.

And overall water company performance has deteriorated in the past 12 months.

Serious river pollution incidents increased in 2018 to 56, compared to 52 in 2017.

The total number of water quality pollution incidents also rose to 1,863 from 1,827 in 2017.

EA chair Emma Howard Boyd has previously warned water companies they would face a tougher regulatory approach with increasing inspections.

Emma is now pledging to work with regulators Ofwat to look at financial penalties to drive better environmental performance.

This is considered key to reducing river pollution given that fines are currently only a fraction of turnover.

Emma 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 improved to gain the highest rating of four stars.

Southern Water, South West Water and Yorkshire Water were only given two stars and described as demonstrating an ‘unacceptable level of performance.’

Severn Trent Water, United Utilities and Wessex Water dropped from four to three stars. Anglian Water and Thames Water remained on three.

And the EA revealed most water companies look set to fail to meet 2020 pollution targets.

Former barbel record holder and environmental campaigner Ray Walton blasted: “Until the director of these water firms are personally liable for pollution incidents then nothing will change.

“If it is cheaper to pay a few fines and have a slap on the wrist then they’ll do that rather than stop polluting out rivers.

“There will only be a change if directors will be personally fined and face prison sentences for the damage they do.”

River pollution justice at last

Utility firm Thames Water were fined £607,000 for polluting and killing fish in the same week of the EA’s damning report.

And TW were also ordered to pay £100,000 in costs plus a victim surcharge of £120 for polluting the Maidenhead Ditch in Berkshire.

TW caused pollution from their Maidenhead Sewage Treatment Works to enter the Maidenhead Ditch – which joins the River Cut – a tributary of the Thames.

EA staff hard at work soon after the Berkshire pollution.

EA staff hard at work soon after the Berkshire pollution.

Aylesbury Crown Court heard how in June 2014, TW allowed raw sewage to escape.

EA officer Ben Govan said: “Our officers believe up to around 30 million litres of sewage polluted the ditch.

“Hundreds of fish died and the environment suffered as a result of Thames Water’s failures.

“Pollution could and should have been avoided had the many warnings and alerts leading up to the incident been acknowledged and dealt with properly.”

It is second large fine TW have had in under 12 months.

They were ordered to pay £2 million by Oxford Crown Court for killing 146 bullheads at Idbury Brook.

TW received a record £20.3 million fine three years ago for polluting various Thames tributaries in Oxfordshire.

The second highest river pollution fine is £8 million. That was against supermarket giant Tesco for polluting Lancashire’s River Irwell with 23,500 litres of petrol in 2017.

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