Environment Agency reveals a major fall in the number of serious pollution episodes in 2000

A report published today by the Environment Agency, reveals that the Agency responded to 47,840 reports of environmental pollution in 2000. Seventy six per cent, some 36,406 of these were substantiated. However, the number of Category 1 incidents – the most significant in terms of damage to ecosystems – fell by nearly 15% in 2000 to a total of 77.

These results mark the lowest score since records began. Fuel and oils were the most significant form of pollutant.

The Agency was responsible for prosecuting those responsible for just 661 incidents. The maximum penalty was £250,000, the average fine for businesses was up to £8,532. Although this average marks an increase of twenty percent, the Agency is still not satisfied that the courts always make sure the penalty is sufficient to be an effective deterrent.

“The Agency is working with the legal fraternity towards the goal of increasing fines for those businesses that pollute, but ultimately it’s up to the courts,” An Agency spokesperson toldedie. “No one-industry stands out as worse than all the others, we try to take a hard line on all offenders. But it remains up to the courts to decide what the re-offenders pay”.

Paul Leinster, the Agency’s Director of Environmental Pollution explained: “Although we are reducing the damage caused by pollution, this is still an unacceptable number of incidents. The number of incidents could be radically reduced at very little cost if business put good environmental practice at the heart of their business and management planning. If they don’t know what to do, we’re here to help.”

Barbara Young, the Agency’s Chief Executive was far more outspoken on the subject in September 2001 when she declared that “pollution is still being treated as an acceptable risk by too many businesses in England and Wales. A culture change is needed across management, with zero tolerance for pollution replacing apathy and acceptance of poor environmental performance”.

At the Environment Agency’s Annual General Meeting on 5 September 2000, Ed Gallagher, former Chief Executive of the Agency declared that the Agency’s policy of naming and shaming companies engaged in polluting activities was working. (see related story).

The Agency is currently working in partnership with specific industry sectors, running or developing campaigns to target issues such as oil storage, waste tyres, construction pollution incidents, and the reduction of hazardous waste and groundwater pollution.

The Agency is also aiming to make Environmental Regulations clearer for everyone, by producing simple, plain English guidance notes on the measures required to prevent pollution and thus avoid prosecution.

It is hoped that all these measures will help to further reduce the number of reported pollution incidents and their impact on the environment.

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