This story goes to the heart of Britain’s sewage scandal. The Environment Agency has all but abandoned its inspections of sewage treatment plants in England.
Instead, the country now relies on water firms to self-report their own illegal spills. What could go wrong?
The Environment Agency’s inspections regime has been downgraded from visiting sewage plants once every five to eight years, to once every 17 years (on average), to no longer having a target. Is it any wonder that so much sewage is being pumped into our rivers and seas?
Water firms claim their self-testing is “incredibly rigorous and tightly controlled”. The torrent of filth does not support that statement. Even regulator Ofwat – the watchdog that doesn’t bark in the night (or the day) – is critical of such daft pronouncements.
Environment Agency whistle-blowers spoke to i for our Save Britain’s Rivers campaign. Some feel they are compromised by a “creeping ethos” of getting too close to the water industry. The agency’s enforcement budget has been obliterated.
So how is self-policing going? Six water firms are being investigated for not properly reporting their illegal spills… and both the EA and Ofwat are being investigated for not fulfilling their duty to regulate water companies.
Will Rishi Sunak or Keir Starmer step up to the plate and show they take this sewage scandal seriously?
The public outcry is profound and unlikely to abate. We have two regulators not up to the job. Where the system fails, it’s the job of political leaders to step in.