According to the Environment Agency’s annual Environmental Performance Assessment for all nine of England’s water and sewerage companies, it is expecting water companies’ serious pollution incidents to “trend towards zero” by 2020.
The Environmental Performance Assessment (EPA), a tool for comparing performance between water companies and across years, was introduced in 2011. The EPA uses 6 indicators to provide a meaningful and comparable overview of performance across the 9 water companies.
The indicators measure performance in various ways, related to:
- Compliance with discharge permits;
- Delivery of environmental improvement schemes
- Management of the use and disposal of sewage sludge; and
- Reduction of pollution incidents and increased company-reporting of incidents.
For the first time since inception of the EPA, 3 companies, Severn Trent Water, United Utilities and Wessex Water, have achieved ‘industry leading’ status, while 5 other companies rated above average. The ninth company has unfortunately deteriorated from a below average rating in 2014 to a poor one.
The main areas of improvement this year include the highest-ever level of self-reporting of pollution incidents; a small reduction in the number of serious pollution incidents; a record low of 4 category 1 serious pollution incidents, only one of which was associated with sewerage; and a big reduction in total pollution incidents (category 1 to 3) for 2015.
Future Agency expectations will include the reduction of category 1 and 2 (the most serious) pollution incidents; the management of sewage sludge treatment and re-use in a way that does not cause pollution; the minimising of all pollution incidents (category 1 to 3) by 2020 by a t least 33% compared to 2012; the achievement of increased levels of self-reporting reaching at least 75% by 2020; good planning and delivery of environmental improvement schemes such as an Asset Management Plan and Water Resource Management Plans; and ensuring that a plan is in place to achieve 100% compliance for all licences and permits.