Water companies operating in England were responsible for the worst levels of environmental pollution in five years in 2019, leading to condemnation from ministers and the Environment Agency.
In her annual assessment of the nine privatized water and sanitation companies, Emma Howard Boyd, president of EA, said their performance was still unacceptable.
Several of the companies that fail to protect the environment need additional investment, she said.
The number of pollution incidents by water companies was the highest since 2014, according to the report. He singled out Southern Water, which recorded more than double the number of reported pollution incidents compared to 2018.
There were 2,204 “pollution incidents” by water companies last year, up from 1,863 in 2018 – the water industry’s worst environmental pollution in six years. Southern Water’s number nearly doubled, reaching 458 incidents.
There have been 48 serious incidents of pollution of the sewage facilities – more than half of which originated from Anglian and Thames Water.
The damning assessment of how water companies are dealing with the environment comes after the shocking state of rivers in England was exposed last month. No river in England has proven to be in good general condition, amid concerns over the scale of sewage discharges and agricultural and industrial chemicals entering the water system.
Environment Secretary George Eustice and Howard Boyd are calling a meeting with the worst performing companies – South West Water, Anglian, Northumbrian and Southern – to demand that they “step up” and do better.
Howard Boyd said: “I will be meeting with the presidents of the water companies in the coming weeks to make it clear that we expect much more. This includes the development, publication and implementation of specific plans by the end of this year to reduce pollution incidents. We will closely monitor the realization of these plans and apply strict regulations to ensure that companies comply with them. “
Four of the nine water utilities were rated as poor or in need of improvement in the EA’s annual rating.
Southern Water became the first company to receive a one-star (mediocre) rating since 2015.
The company was fined a record £ 126million last year for ‘shocking’ failures at wastewater treatment sites that have polluted rivers and beaches in southern England.
The environment secretary said: “Water companies have a responsibility to act as stewards of the environment and this report for 2019 shows that some are not taking their obligations seriously. It is not good enough.
“Some water companies need to step up and do better, so I’ll meet with those who don’t meet our expectations to discuss how we can work together to improve performance.”
The government has set up a Storm Overflow Task Force to tackle the problem of raw sewage discharged from water companies into rivers. The Guardian has revealed that in 2019, water companies released raw sewage from storm overflows more than 200,000 times in 2019.
Discharges, which are authorized by the EA, are only expected to occur after extreme weather events.
At the same time, analysis of the finances of the water companies showed that they had paid 57 billion pounds in dividends since their privatization 30 years ago.