The Guardian reports water companies are at the centre of a major investigation by the financial and environmental watchdogs after they admitted they may have illegally released untreated sewage into rivers and waterways.
The Environment Agency and Ofwat said they had begun an investigation into sewage treatment works, after new checks led to the admission from the water companies.
This investigation will involve more than 2,000 sewage treatment works, nearly a third of the total number in England and Wales, with any company caught breaching their legal permits liable to enforcement action, including fines or prosecutions.
The BBC reports plans to go ahead with the restoration of mud flats have been put back after concerns were raised by campaigners about the effect on nesting birds. The project would have involved the removal of vegetation on the River Otter estuary in Devon, starting on Tuesday.
The Environment Agency (EA) said the start of work was “being reviewed”. The rescheduling followed involvement from the RSPB and wildlife TV presenter Chris Packham. The RSPB said it supported the restoration scheme, but it was the wrong time of year.
The Guardian reports the scale of water companies illegally discharging sewage is 10 times greater than the Environment Agency (EA) estimates, MPs have been told.
Peter Hammond, former professor of computational biology at University College London, now retired, said his analysis of sewage treatment works found in 2020 alone 160 breaches of permits granted by the watchdog to allow sewage discharges. The EA has only prosecuted 174 cases of illegal discharges in the last 10 years, he said on Wednesday.
BBC News, The Guardian, and The Times report water companies discharged raw sewage into rivers in England more than 400,000 times in 2020, according to new figures published by the Environment Agency.
Untreated effluent, including human waste, wet wipes and condoms, was released into waterways for more than three million hours last year. Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency, said that his organisation was “working actively with the water companies to ensure overflows are properly controlled”.
The EA said a legal notice requiring the works to stop immediately was served on the landowner by Natural England earlier last week…But the landowner John Price, a potato and cattle farmer, has insisted that he was asked to do the work by the EA to try to tackle flooding in the area.