Whistleblowing portal launched in latest water company crackdown

A new portal has been launched to make it easier for internal water company whistleblowers to safely report serious environmental wrongdoing by their water companies.

In a bid to crackdown on sewage pollution and other environmental wrongdoing, workers are encouraged to alert the Environment Agency to any concerns, which will then be assessed by the regulator’s expert intelligence teams, with the identities of reporters protected and treated as confidential sources.

Any findings can be used to support enforcement action against companies, if appropriate, including:

  • unlimited financial penalties
  • criminal prosecution

As well as water companies, people working in the waste, nuclear, fishing, agricultural, and chemical sectors can also use the portal to report concerns and they are urged to use it if they do not feel able to raise issues with their company directly.

Alan Lovell, Chair of the Environment Agency, said:

“We share the public’s disgust with sewage pollution and know there’s always more that can be done to protect our waterways. This new whistleblowing portal allows workers to raise their concerns and we encourage people to come forward, knowing any information will be treated in confidence and with sensitivity.The more evidence we have to identify potential criminality, then the more actions we can take to make lasting improvements to our environment.”

Environment Secretary, Steve Barclay, said:

“We have been clear we will not tolerate pollution and water companies need to act quickly to improve their environmental performance. This whistleblowing portal is another measure which will help the regulator gather vital intelligence and hold rule-breakers to account.It builds on our recent work to ban inappropriate executive bonuses and plans to quadruple the number of water company inspections by the Environment Agency – ensuring we continue to protect our waterways with more investment, stronger regulation and tougher enforcement action.”

The announcement follows a series of improvements the government and the EA has delivered to water regulation in recent months, including plans for a fourfold increase in water company inspections to hold companies to account. Subject to consultation, EA inspections will rise to 4,000 a year by the end of March 2025 and then to more than 10,000 from April 2025. This will include an increase in unannounced inspections – strengthening oversight of water companies and providing greater assurance alongside operator self-monitoring.

In addition to 100% of storm overflows now being monitored, data-driven analytics is helping the Environment Agency to:

  • map discharges against rainfall more effectively
  • better identify non-compliance
  • take action against illegal activity

The cap on civil penalties for water companies has now also been removed, broadening their scope so swifter action can be taken against those who pollute our waterways.

The EA is already conducting the largest ever criminal investigation into potential widespread non-compliance by water and sewerage companies at thousands of sewage treatment works. Since 2015, the EA has concluded 60 prosecutions against water and sewerage companies securing fines of over £150 million.

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