Water companies will incur unlimited fines for polluting rivers and the sea under new UK legislation to protect the environment, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Therese Coffrey, the environment secretary, will announce plans [this week] to remove the £250,000 maximum fine on civil penalties for companies that break the rules. The environment agency is also seeking to strengthen its ability to impose sanctions on water companies without going through the courts.
Fines will be reinvested into a new Water Restoration Fund which will work with local communities and groups to improve water quality and support projects to improve management of waters and restore protected sites. Penalties and fines will be taken from water company profits, not customers.
Surfers Accuse UK Water Companies of Illegally Dumping Raw Sewage
Last year, 10 water and sewage companies within England released sewage into rivers and the sea on 301,091 occasions, with United Utilities and Yorkshire Water responsible for 40% of the spills.
“I want to make sure that regulators have the powers and tools to take tough action against companies that are breaking the rules and to do so more quickly,” Therese Coffrey said in a statement.
The government’s ‘Plan for Water’ will also include measures against other forms of pollution, such as storm overflows, agriculture, plastics, road run-off and chemicals and pesticides.
The proposals will be published within a consultation on Tuesday.
Photograph: A sign warning of a ‘Sewage Outfall’ on the banks of the Thames estuary in Dartford. Photo credit: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images
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