EA engages in some self-assessment

The Environment Agency has published its Annual Report and Accounts for 1998/99 prior to its Annual General Meeting, to be held on 15 September.

In it, the EA assesses its performance against targets in ten key areas:

  • climate change
  • industry regulation
  • air quality
  • waste management
  • water resources
  • riverbasin management
  • land conservation
  • fisheries
  • biodiversity
  • business development.

Singularly notable in its status as “not achieved” is the EA’s target of a 5% reduction in substantiated water pollution incidents from oil and construction sectors. According to the report, in 1997 there were 5,542 fuel and oil substantiated water incidents. In 1998 this reduced to 5,308, a reduction of 4.2%, but still significantly higher than in 1996, and 30% of total incidents. Construction-substantiated water incidents increased by 8.6% to 672.

Ed Gallacher, chief executive of the EA, stated: “The Agency is committed to being a firm but fair regulator. We have taken over 2,100 pollution prosecutions since 1996 and continue to express our concern over the low levels of fines given to those who have damaged the environment.”

Last year, 578 successful prosecutions were concluded, resulting in fines of more than £5m. Topping the table of worst offenders, published for the first time this year in an effort to “name and shame” polluting companies, was ICI with environmental fines totalling £382,500, the largest of which being £300,000 for the release of 150 tonnes of chloroform.

Most prosecutions during the course of the year, however, resulted in fines of less than £3,000. Three of the worst other offenders – Tyseley Waste Disposal Ltd, London Waste Ltd and Alco Waste Management – are waste management companies.

Water companies also featured prominently, with most prosecutions relating to illegal discharges of raw or partly-treated sewage or sewage effluent affecting rivers, streams and bathing waters. Poor operational management and maintenance, resulting in pumping failures, sewer bursts and blockages of combined sewer overflows, was largely to blame.

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