Environment Agency disappointed with Combined Sewage Overflows appeal decision

Posted: Wednesday 28th April 2010

Last April, the Environment Agency announced plans to bring some 4,200 combined sewer overflows (CSOs) under stricter regulation, to help continue to protect the quality of rivers and coastal waters. Six water companies appealed these plans and the Planning Inspectorate held an appeal hearing in January.

The Planning Inspectorate’s decision was largely in the water companies’ favour and the Environment Agency is disappointed that the overall decision does not go as far as it wished. However, the decision gives someadditional protection to the quality of rivers and coastal waters in England and Wales, as water companies will now be required to better maintain these CSOs to minimise overflows and potential pollution incidents.

Water companies need to take a forward planning approach to prevent environmental pollution or increase the risk of sewer flooding, for example as a result of new development, and we are concerned that the Planning Inspectorate’s decision does not provide this incentive or any mechanism to protect against future environmental deterioration.

Since 1989, the Environment Agency has worked with water companies to identify the highest sources of pollution from sewage overflows and has acted to tackle them, and some £2.5bn has been invested to upgrade sewer systems and reduce pollution. We will continue to work with water companies, farmers, local authorities and others to improve water quality even further to meet challenging new EU standards.

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