The Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) has confirmed that it is to carry out an investigation into the roles of Ofwat, the Environment Agency and the Defra Secretary of State in the regulation of combined sewer overflows (CSOs) in England.
The aims of the investigation are to determine whether these authorities have failed to comply with their respective duties in relation to the regulation, including the monitoring and enforcement, of water companies’ own duties to manage sewage. In doing so, they will seek to clarify the respective duties.
Further, if there are found to be failures, their objective will be to improve regulation, leading to long term improvement in water quality.
Commenting, Steve Double, Member of Parliament for St Austell and Newquay said:
“I know how important the issue of untreated sewer outflows is to many people locally and it is something I am committed to ensure is addressed. Therefore I welcome the Office for Environmental Protection taking this action to look into the regulation of combined sewer overflows.”
“This follows work taking place around the Government’s landmark Environment Act, which sees the Government taking more steps than any previous one to cut down on the sewage that gets into our rivers and seas, taking practical steps to work with the water industry to make these changes happen.”
“I look forward to seeing the outcome of the OEP’s investigation and hope this will continue the journey towards cleaner waters that we all want to see.”
Commenting, the OEP’s Chief Regulatory Officer Helen Venn said:
“Unsatisfactory water quality is an important, longstanding, systemic issue and one of the most pressing environmental concerns at this time.
“This is a complex area and there is already a great deal of work underway to try and tackle the problem of untreated sewage in our rivers. Our investigation will contribute to that work by providing clarity about the legal responsibilities of the different bodies involved to ensure measures to tackle the problems can be targeted and effective.
“We clearly do not know at this point what our findings will be or where the investigation will take us. It is possible that it could result in enforcement activity and / or in broader actions to improve the legal and / or regulatory systems. Our priority throughout will be to protect and improve the environment.”