Member Alert - River Wear
Fish Legal have alerted members that the Regulatory Position Statement B2 (or RPS for short) tells the water companies (including Northumbrian Water) that they can discharge in breach of their permits because of a shortage of chemicals used for sewage treatment due to Brexit and Covid.
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 do
Read 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.
Dr Justin Neal
Solicitor, FIsh Legal
Further information here.