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 EA Pollution incidents: 2015 evidence summary

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David Harvey

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PostSubject: EA Pollution incidents: 2015 evidence summary   Mon Nov 21, 2016 5:04 am

Hope of interest, full report is here https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/553537/Pollution_incidents__2015_evidence_summary.pdf


This report summarises Environment Agency statistics on serious pollution incidents in England for the calendar year 2015. It provides information on their impact on the environment and the sectors responsible.

We classify pollution incidents according to their impact on the environment and people, from category 1 (the most serious) to category 4 (little or no impact) and the level of response needed. We investigate reported pollution incidents on a risk basis to limit their impact and, where appropriate, we take action against those responsible for the pollution.
Serious pollution incidents can harm people and the environment as well as damage businesses and affect recreational activities such as angling. A serious incident can have a significant financial impact on a business in clean-up and enforcement costs, and claims for damages from third parties. Pollution incidents can damage the reputation of businesses and can affect their ability to secure contracts or subsidies.

The Environment Agency spends about £12 million a year in time and materials responding to pollution incidents to reduce harm. Our officers investigate the causes of serious pollution incidents to help determine the sectors (types of businesses) or activities we should focus our efforts on, and identify areas for businesses to improve. We also monitor pollution incidents through sector performance reports. These are used to engage with industry, disseminate lessons learnt, share best practice, and target improvement actions.

This summary is about the most serious pollution incidents, categories 1 and 2. It makes a distinction between sites or activities we regulate under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010 (EPR), referred to in the summary as permitted sites or activities, and those that we don’t. The activities of some of the industries and businesses that we don’t permit under EPR will be regulated under other legislation. For example, activities may be regulated under the Water Resources Act or monitored under the Water Framework Directive.

The data in this summary was extracted on 1 April 2016. The underlying database is live and data retrieved in any future extract may be different.

Main facts
In 2015, there were 499 serious pollution incidents:

  • 19% fewer than in 2014
    42% fewer than in 2005
    56% fewer than in 2000
    325 (65%) affected the water environment, compared to 360 (59%) in 2014
    97 (19%) affected air, compared to 199 (32%) in 2014


The source of most (57%) serious pollution incidents are sites or activities that we do not regulate under the Environmental Permitting Regulations.

Since 2014, the number of serious pollution incidents:

  • caused by activities with permits decreased by 32%
    caused by non-permitted activities increased by 22%
    where we could not identify the source decreased by 65%


In 2015, the top 5 industry sectors causing pollution incidents were:

  • farming (whole sector); 87
    water companies; 59
    biowaste treatment activities with permits; 32
    non-hazardous waste treatment activities with permits; 29
    waste treatment (metals recycling) activities with permits; 12


Between 2014 and 2015, serious incidents caused by the landfill sector decreased by 71%.

The biowaste treatment sector caused the largest number of pollution incidents per 100 permits.
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