The Environment Agency get-out-of-jail card for water companies.

View in browser | Members Update from Fish LegalMembers UpdateSeptember 29th, 2021Alert to all members – please act nowDear MemberThe Environment Agency has just published a get-out-of-jail card for water companies. Their Regulatory Position Statement B2 (or RPS for short) tells the water companies that they can discharge in breach of their permits because of a shortage of chemicals used for sewage treatment due to Brexit and Covid. [see note below]Fish Legal thinks this RPS is unlawful as the Environment Agency can’t change the law or say what is or isn’t illegal. If a water company discharges in breach of permit, it is in breach of the permit.  That is why we have written a “Letter before Action” to the Environment Agency threatening that we will launch a legal challenge unless they withdraw the RPS.The water companies have been asked by the Environment Agency to “risk assess” the Waste Water Treatment Works  (WWTW) into categories A-C.Category A is for WWTW which are “less critical” and “likely to have low environmental and downstream abstraction impact and should be de-prioritised in the scenario that treatment chemicals are unavailable, and all other mitigations have been exhausted.”Fish Legal believes the water companies could take advantage of this rule and rely on the get-out-of-jail card provided by the Environment Agency. This could mean that Category A WWTW and their respective waterbodies could be sacrificed because the water companies cannot get their act together.The Environment Agency has now provided a copy of these risk assessments by the water companies. We have copied below all the Category A – supposedly ‘low risk’ – sewage works and the relevant rivers.What you can doRead through the list of waterbodies under each utility company for your area and, if you are concerned about any of the local rivers that are mentioned, get in touch with your water company to ask what they intend to do to ensure that there is no pollution or environmental harm. Also ask them to update you if and when they decide to rely on the RPS and discharge in breach of their permits.Yours sincerely
Dr Justin Neal
Solicitor, FIsh Legal
Click here for list of Category A WWTW sites
Note:[1] On 6 September 2021, the Environment Agency published “Water and Sewerage Company Effluent Discharges: supply chain failure Regulatory Position Statement B2” (“RPS”).The document’s introduction reads as follows:“Normally, you need a permit under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 to discharge treated effluent from a waste water treatment works (WwTW) to surface water or groundwater. Permits contain conditions that control the quality of the effluent you can discharge. You may not be able to comply with your permit if you cannot get the chemicals you use to treat the effluent you discharge because of:the UK’s new relationship with the EU,
coronavirus (COVID-19).
other unavoidable supply chain failures, for example the failure of a treatment chemical supplier.“If you follow the conditions in this regulatory position statement (RPS) you can discharge effluent without meeting the conditions in your permit. You must get written agreement from your Environment Agency water company account manager before you use this RPS [emphasis added].
The document explains that the RPS “only applies to water and sewerage company discharges from WwTW that cannot comply with permit conditions because of a shortage of chemicals to treat effluent due to: the UK’s new relationship with the EU, coronavirus (COVID-19), other unavoidable failure in the supply chain.”Under the section, “Enforcement”, the document indicates that, “an RPS means that the Environment Agency will not normally take enforcement action against you provided: your activity meets the description set out in this RPS you comply with the conditions set out in this RPS your activity does not, and is not likely to, cause environmental pollution or harm human health you have taken all reasonable steps to comply with your permit.The RPS will cease to have effect on 31 December 2021 “unless we extend it.”Fish Legal is a membership association using the law to protect fish stocks and the rights of its members throughout the UK. It is united in a collaborative relationship with the Angling Trust, the national representative and governing body for angling in England. Joint membership packages with the Angling Trust are available for individuals, clubs, fisheries and other categories.Click here for more information about membershipAngling Trust & Fish Legal, Eastwood House, Rainbow Street, Leominster, HR6 8DQTelephone: 01568 620447View in browser

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