A law that forces water companies to hand over data to campaigners could be scrapped under Government plans for a bonfire of European regulations.

Campaigners have told i that without it the public would be left in “complete ignorance” of how much sewage pollution is going on.

The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR) allows the public to request information and data on environmental issues. The law is more broad than the Freedom of Information Act and, crucially, a 2015 court ruling expanded its reach to cover private water companies.

It is currently being reviewed, alongside nearly two-thousand other pieces of European legislation, by officials at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Under the upcoming Retained EU Law (Reul) Bill, any European law not explicitly marked for retention will be abolished by default at the end of this year. Defra accounts for nearly half of all the laws being reviewed.

Without the EIR, campaigners are at risk of losing their supply to water company data, much of which is not held by the Environment Agency.

Penelope Gane, head of practice at Fish Legal which was behind the 2015 case, told i: There’s a gap… we know the Environment Agency are not asking for the data, so if [the EIR] is gone then we’re back to being frustrated having to just rely on the regulator.”

The EIR has been used by multiple NGOs to scrutinise water companies and the regulators.

Windrush Against Sewage Pollution (Wasp) and Prof Peter Hammond have made extensive use of data acquired through the EIR to reveal the extent to which sewage is being illegally discharged by water companies.

“Without the EIR the public would be in complete ignorance about the massive extent of illegal pollution and would just be fed the broad data, said Ashley Smith, Wasps founder.

“We can see why some water companies would be desperate to get rid of them and the same applies to the regulators and government – all of which have been exposed as incompetent or complicit and various aspects of the sewage scandal.”

Water UK, the industry body, has been critical of Reul and publicly stated that the “water industry opposes any weakening of the laws on rivers and seas.”

Nick Measham, chief executive of WildFish, another NGO, told i that disclosures under the EIR had been essential to the group’s work.

Jim McMahon, the shadow environment secretary, toldi: “That the Tories are more concerned with hiding their damage rather than fixing it, shows that we have a government that has run out of road and nowhere to go.”

He has pledged that under a Labour government would “end the Tory sewage scandal by delivering mandatory monitoring on all sewage outlets, introducing automatic fines for discharges, setting ambitious targets for reducing sewage dumping and ensuring that water bosses are held to account for negligent behaviour.

Mr McMahon’s criticism was put to Defra.

The EIR came into force in 2005, at the same time as the Freedom of Information Act, and was required under European law to bring the UK into line with commitments made under the Aarhus Convention.

The UK remains a signatory to the Aarhus Convention, which commits member states to public access to environmental information. Members of the public could report the UK to the conventions compliance committee, but it is only capable of making non-binding recommendations.

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Defra ministers have insisted that EU laws will be retained by default unless there is a good reason to either repeal or reform it, but they have refused to commit to keeping the EIR or a number of other pieces of legislation that underpin the environmental protection of Britain’s rivers.

Those laws, such as the Water Framework Directive, have allowed campaigners to sue the Government into acting on river pollution.

A Defra spokesperson told i: “We are unequivocal that reviewing our retained EU law will not come at the expense of the UK’s already high standards.

“As with all retained EU law, the accessibility of environmental information is being carefully considered.”

Mr Misham was unimpressed by ministers’ inability to offer certainty. “You’d think they could just say simply, ‘look, we’re retaining it’. [The EIR] has never been more important than it is now in terms of ability to scrutinise water companies,” he said.

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