Lancaster and Morecambe water providers United Utilities rated 3 star in annual report on environmental performance
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The Environment Agency has released its annual report on the environmental performance of England’s nine water and sewerage companies.
Nationally, the report shows modest improvements to water company star ratings under the Environmental Performance Assessment (EPA) report in 2022, compared to 2021.
Measured against the Environment Agency’s 4 star rating, four companies have stayed the same, three have improved and two have got worse.
Severn Trent Water – 4 stars, the same as the previous year
Northumbrian Water – 3 stars, down from 4 stars
United Utilities – 3 stars, down from 4 stars
Yorkshire Water – 3 stars, up from 2 stars
Anglian Water – 2 stars, the same as the previous year
Thames Water – 2 stars, the same as the previous year
Wessex Water – 2 stars, the same as the previous year
Southern Water – 2 stars, up from 1 star
South West Water – 2 stars, up from 1 star
Since 2011, the Environment Agency has used the EPA to rate each company in England from 1 star to 4 star.
The rating takes into account performance on environmental commitments such as pollution incidents and treatment work permit compliance.
Last year an updated reporting approach was introduced, with revised metrics and tightened performance thresholds.
The results show that although there have been some improvements, all water companies need to go further and faster.
In the North West, United Utilities dropped from a 4 star (industry leading) company to 3 star (good).
This was due to the company’s performance around permit compliance.
United Utilities achieved 98.5% for permit compliance, which must now be above 99% and green for a water company to achieve a 4 star rating as the Environment Agency continues to expect better performance in this area.
In other areas, there were no serious pollution incidents during 2022, making United Utilities one of only two companies meeting basic requirements for this metric.
There was also an improvement in total pollution incidents, with 16 per 10,000km of sewer, down from 18 in 2021.
United Utilities self-reported 88% of incidents, slightly better than the sector average of 82%, and delivered 100% of its schemes under the Water Industry National Environment Programme (WINEP), delivering 316 projects to improve the environment.
It was also consistent in the other metrics for satisfactory sludge use and disposal and water supply and demand.
Carol Holt, area director for the Environment Agency in the north west, said: “It is disappointing to see this drop in rating for United Utilities and we are clear that things simply must improve.
“While there have been some improvements, including a drop in pollution incidents, there is still much to be done.
“We are constantly carrying out enforcement activity, including putting water companies before the courts and there are several criminal investigations ongoing in relation to incidents and potential permit breaches.
"We welcome the Environment Agency’s new powers to issue unlimited penalties when companies commit environmental offences and do not meet the high standards that the public rightly expect.”