Anglian Water answers Fenland councillors’ questions over environmental record
Anglian Water has admitted it wants to “do better” after criticism of its pollution record.
Representatives of the water company told Fenland District Council (FDC) members that it’s “not where we want to be” with regards to its Environmental Performance Assessment at a meeting this week.
This government report found that Anglian Water was responsible for 255 pollution incidents last year – 11 of them serious – among the highest of England’s water companies.
The report, issued by the Environment Agency, concluded that the company ‘requires improvement’ – the same outcome as the year before.
The company assured councillors that it’s putting new processes in place to try to prevent future pollution incidents, such as installing 22,000 extra monitors across its network and learning from other water companies with better records on pollution.
Its representatives Natasha Kenny and Grant Tuffs, who met with FDC councillors for a Q&A session, did, however, defend the company’s record in the local area.
Asked about an alleged incident in which sewage leaked into the River Nene in Peterborough before travelling to Whittlesey, Ms Kenny said that issues like this aren’t new or causing harm to the local environment.
“There’s a lot of media interest in storm overflows at the moment and there’s a lot of emotive language around those,” she said.
“There are implications that these are pollutions and we’re dumping sewage in water courses, but we’ve had these over a number of years – a number of decades – and they are not causing a detrimental impact on the receiving water course.”
Storm overflows send excess wastewater into rivers and other water courses after periods of heavy rain or snow. This is only considered a pollution event by the government if the ecology of the receiving water is harmed as a result.
Use of storm overflows is allowed by the Environment Agency and usually has “very low or no impact” on the receiving water, Ms Kenny said, outside of instances where something goes wrong in the network.
Cllr Elisabeth Sennitt Clough (Conservatives, Whittlesey North West), who asked the question, responded that residents are “within their right to use what you describe as emotive language if they feel their waterways are being polluted”.
Ms Kenny and Mr Tuffs also confirmed to councillors that Anglian Water customers will see their bills increase over the next five years, by around 15 to 16 per cent.
They said that this is the lowest rise expected from any water company and necessary for investment into local infrastructure, including at the Fen Reservoir.