Environment Agency and utilities under attack for ‘open sewer’ rivers
27 Aug 2019
The Environment Agency and utility companies have come under increased criticism over the state of rivers in England.
Leading the objectors has been the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) which has claimed that many waterways in the country are being used as “open sewers” and pointed to the loss of wildlife in deteriorated rivers.
EU ratings for river health run from poor to moderate to good and finally, high.
The Environment Agency has predicted this target will be met in England but critics point out that it will require a massive – more than fivefold – increase from the present level of just 14%.
Despite Britain’s impending withdrawal from the European Union, the Government is committed to meeting EU expectations that 75% of all rivers will be deemed in a ‘good’ state of health by 2027.
However, the EA expects a rise of just 2% over two years in the proportion of English rivers in good health, while a Times report recently revealed that river pollution was at its highest level since testing began two decades ago.
The report prompted calls from the WWF for the EA to be replaced by a more effective watchdog.
The EA’s own report published in July appeared to bear out some of the concerns. Only 1 authority – Northumbria achieved the agency’s coveted four star performance rating, while three firms dropped from that level to three stars.
At present five companies have three stars, with another three on just two stars. Any firm scoring below four stars is required to implement improvements.
At the time executive director of operations Dr Toby Willison said:
“Water companies need to clean up their act... 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.”
This year has seen a number of water companies carrying out high profile improvement programmes with an environmental emphasis aimed at the protection of fish species, notably the threatened European Eel (pictured).