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Anglian Water convicted of failing to supply key information to Environment Agency





Anglian Water has been convicted of failing to supply key information to the Environment Agency amid a criminal investigation into water companies.

The firm was found guilty of failing, without reasonable excuse, to provide records related to its wastewater treatment works in Norfolk and across the region.

The decision has left councillors and MPs in the county angry at the water company’s lack of transparency and have called for tougher action.

General election candidate Rob Colwell says the decision bolsters fears that rare chalk streams are being polluted
General election candidate Rob Colwell says the decision bolsters fears that rare chalk streams are being polluted

While Anglian Water – who entered a not-guilty plea claiming it had a “reasonable excuse” for not providing the information – has said it is “pleased” the firm was cleared of two further charges for obstruction.

CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION

The Environment Agency brought the case against Anglian Water after it arose as part of a wider criminal investigation involving all 10 water companies into potential non-compliance with environmental permit conditions at more than 2,000 wastewater treatment works.

MP Duncan Baker slammed Anglian Water
MP Duncan Baker slammed Anglian Water

The probe was launched in 2021 into potential widespread non-compliance by water companies at wastewater treatment works.

It is the largest criminal investigation the organisation has taken to date.

It follows widespread outrage across the country over the water quality of coastal waters and rivers and lakes, with only 14% of rivers granted good ecological status.

A spokeswoman for Anglian Water said it will review the judge’s sentencing remarks in preparation for sentencing in July.

Anglian Water argued it had a “reasonable excuse for non-compliance” but this was rejected by district judge Kenneth Sheraton.

The firm was also facing two counts of obstruction but it escaped being found guilty for these charges.

The spokeswoman added: “We’re pleased the judge has said our course of action and time taken to respond with surrogate data to the Environment Agency was reasonable. These were the two most serious allegations of obstruction.”

‘IT IS UNACCEPTABLE’

Following the ruling, Duncan Baker, MP for North Norfolk, said: “It is completely unacceptable that Anglian Water failed to provide the necessary documents to the Environment Agency during their recent investigation.

“Through my work with the Environmental Audit Select Committee, water firms now face unlimited penalties for breaches and I want to ensure we have the best water quality in the world – and our tough actions will help to support this.

“There is always more to do, and I will keep working to hold them firmly to account.”

Rob Colwell, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for North West Norfolk, has said the decision bolsters locals’ fears that rare chalk streams are being polluted.

He said: “Locally we know that residents and groups like Gaywood River Revival have taken pictures and samples to call out this behaviour and demand change.

“The Grimston Water Recycling Centre is of concern to me around its capacity to deal with new housing and climate change.

“This isn’t fair or morally right for our rare chalk streams in Norfolk like the Gaywood River.

“The next government must not only stop water boss bonuses but ensure they commit more of their profits to upgrade their ageing infrastructure and repairing leaks.

“The general public should not be forced to pay for this with larger bills.”

WATER BOSSES UNDER FIRE

​Raw sewage discharges from storm overflows, which water companies are legally allowed to do at times of extreme weather, have become a major issue for people in the country.

It has led to fears bathing in Norfolk’s waters has become unsafe.

The issue was highlighted this week after West Runton Beach, near Cromer, had to be closed for a day due to high ammonia levels following a release of sewage via an outfall off the beach.

Anglian Water has pledged to invest £1bn into its infrastructure to address the problem but many fear the burden of this cost is being placed on customers.



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