The House of Lords Industry and Regulators Committee has written to Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency over concerns raised in the media recently about the reduction in sewage inspections.
The letter follows a recent evidence session attended by Sir James and Alan Lovell, Chair of the Environment Agency where they assured the Committee that the Environment Agency has and will continue to maintain a large and sophisticated monitoring network.
In the letter, the Committee has asked Sir James Bevan to confirm:
- whether he has taken a decision to reduce inspections of bathing water pollution incidents? and if so, the reasons for the decision?
- if a reduction in inspections is driven by a lack of resources at the Agency? And whether he is concerned that pressures on the public finances could see inspections scaled back further?
- how far he trusts water companies’ monitoring, assessments, and evidence in relation to water pollution, given their past performances?
- how he responds to the argument that this is an effort to change how pollution incidents are classified rather than taking action to reduce them?
- if scaling back inspections reduce the Agency’s knowledge of what is actually happening in the water environment, increasing the likelihood that it will fail to spot water companies polluting the water environment in future, as it did initially in relation to storm overflows?
Lord Hollick, Chair of the Industry and Regulators Committee said:
“The Committee is concerned to read recent reports suggesting that the Environment Agency is reducing inspections in a number of areas and will instead rely on the assessments made by water companies. This appears to be contrary to the evidence we recently received which suggested the need for more comprehensive monitoring of water quality by regulators.
“We are particularly concerned given the poor environmental performance of water companies and the ongoing investigation into several companies’ compliance with their permits in relation to storm overflow usage.”
Sir James has been asked to respond to the letter by Friday 16 December 2022.