Water Industry News

Yorkshire Water Under Fire For Pollution Incidents

Utility company Yorkshire Water has agreed to donate £400,000 to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust following two separate water pollution incidents, with the donations used to further environmental improvements such as the River Foss, Askham Bog and Living Went projects.


In one instance, the firm breached its environmental permit by allowing an unauthorised sewage discharge from a pumping station that led to pollution in Holgate Beck in York.


And two further unauthorised discharges were made from a rising main at Hemsworth Water Park, leading to pollution at Hoyle Mill Stream in Wakefield.


The company has now submitted two enforcement undertakings – £150,000 for Holgate Beck and £250,000 for Hoyle Mill Stream.


Record fines were handed out to water companies last year coming to a total of more than £100 million.


For example, Yorkshire Water was fined £233,000 towards the end of January this year for a pollution incident at Tong Beck in 2017. They were also fined £150,000 in September last year for an incident at the Potteric Carr Nature Reserve.


Martin Christmas, area environment manager with the Environment Agency, observed that the organisation is now holding companies to account “like never before”, adding that enforcement undertakings are an effective resource that allows utilities to make amends and contribute to environmental improvements.


He went on to say: “They allow polluters to correct and restore the harm caused to the environment and prevent repeat incidents by improving their procedures, helping ensure future compliance with environmental requirements.


“As well as donations totalling £400,000 to Yorkshire Wildlife Trust that will bring great benefits to the environment, Yorkshire Water has made significant improvements to its monitoring system and completed repairs to its assets as part of the civil sanction.”


This comes as the Environment Agency releases its annual report on the environmental performance of water companies in England, revealing that in 2021 nine of them saw their performance dip to the lowest level seen under the Environmental Performance Assessment.


The majority of the companies saw a drop in performance and it seems that court penalties are not proving to be the best deterrent against pollution incidents. The Environment Agency has now issued a call for courts to impose far higher fines for deliberate or serious incidents of pollution. At the moment, fines are often less than the salary of a chief executive.


This latest report revealed that Southern Water and South West Water received one star ratings, meaning they now need to deliver significant improvements. At the other end of the scale, Severn Trent, United Utilities and Northumbrian Water maintained four star ratings each – although certain improvements are still required, even in these cases.


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