For the first time, the Environment Agency can now go directly to the person responsible for a site or premises threatening to pollute any part of the water environment and require them to take preventive action. The plant or company will be directly liable for any costs incurred in reducing the pollution risk.

Under the new measures, contained in the Anti-Pollution Works Regulations 1999, the EA will serve a Works Notice where there is a significant pollution risk and where the improvements cannot be achieved by voluntary action. The Notice will clearly outline what a company needs to do and a deadline for the work completion. Until now the Agency has had limited pollution prevention powers, focused on businesses who have permission to discharge effluent into rivers.

“In the past we could only consult and negotiate with most companies,” said Dr Charlie Pattinson, the EA’s Wales environment protection manager. “Works Notices give us the ability to ensure companies introduce preventative measures and prevent water pollution from occurring. Works Notices make sense both environmentally and financially, as the cost of cleaning up pollution can be higher than preventing it.”

Businesses who fail to comply with a Works Notice can be prosecuted. In addition, the Agency can fix the problem and charge the clean-up costs to the business.

Following concerns about the serving of works notices in relation to other regulatory regimes, the Government has clarified that where other powers apply, for example the contaminated land regime, action would be taken under those powers.

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