Office for Environmental Protection believe there may have been failures to comply with environmental law in relation to sewage pollution

2 minute read
  • Wildfish
  • Wildfish
  • Wildfish
  • Wildfish
The untreated sewage pollution that plagues English rivers ©Shutterstock

In response to a complaint from WildFish, the Office for Environmental Protection has said they believe that there may have been failures to comply with environmental law by Ofwat, the Environment Agency and the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the regulation of combined sewer overflows (CSOs) in England. 

WildFish submitted the first-ever complaint to the new Office for Environmental Protection in October last year. Click here to read more about the complaint submission.

Today, the Office for Environmental Protection is indicating that it considers that the combined failure, over years, of the Secretary of State, the Environment Agency and OFWAT to stop sewage pollution, did not, and still does not comply with the law.

We believe that there may have been failures to comply with environmental law by all three of the public authorities.

Office for Environment Protection

Press Release

Click here to read the Office for Environment Protection’s press release in full.

In a letter to WildFish (dated 11 September 2023), the Office for Environmental Protection details the next steps in its investigation.

Read the OEP Response


OFWAT, the Environment Agency and the Secretary of State are jointly responsible for the terrible sewage pollution of our rivers. They have allowed the water companies to pollute routinely, unlawfully, as a normal part of their usual business practice. Let’s be quite clear here. Those three public bodies are complicit in allowing the pollution. That must now end.

Guy Linley-Adams

WildFish, Solicitor

WildFish is currently waiting for judgment to be handed down in its judicial review of the Government’s wholly inadequate Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plan. The case was heard in the High Court in July and judgement is expected imminently.

Click here to read more about the legal challenge presented by WildFish.

  • Atholl Scott
    12th September 2023

    Absolutely nothing will happen it will be part of the Old Boys Club ? The problem will be swept under the Carpet and no one will be held Accountable ? Most of these Politicians promise to look after the Environment and end up Doing Sod All 😭😭😭

  • user1_immy
    12th September 2023

    We hope not and will keep the pressure on to make sure this isn’t the case.

  • David Carrick
    12th September 2023

    The bodies meant to have the expertise to protect our rivers etc have failed to deliver. The EA are said to be short of funding. Maybe there is a case to scrutinise what they actually spend their money on.

    12th September 2023

    OFWAT is a joke. They and the Conservative Government have presided over this debacle for years and nothing has been done. Its only now with the general outrage about the state of our rivers and beaches that the people in charge are committing to address the issue. Too little too late for many rivers that will take possibly generations to recover.
    Its an absolute disgrace and the water companies should be banned from paying dividends to their shareholders until they show that they have got to grips with the problems and paid an appropriate price for their mismanagement.

  • Ashley Paul Smith
    12th September 2023

    This is superbly disruptive work to break up the sham ‘robust regulation’ nonsense that has been fed to the public and parliamentary committees by people who need to be held to account. It will also test the fitness of the OEP to serve the people of the UK. Great work by a serious eNGO – one not for sale.

  • Jonathan Jones
    12th September 2023

    I took action against SWW through the Small Claims Court. My claim was “Loss of Amenity Use” following a discharge onto a beach where I live. They agreed to settle.
    The cost of this action is £50 and is a very straightforward process.
    This is one easy and effective way to hold these companies to account. Even if a small percentage of people who’d lost the use of a river or a beach due to a sewage discharge were to do the same the water companies would struggle to resource the claims.

  • When it comes to dumping sewage, water companies don’t seem to understand the word ‘no’
    13th September 2023

    […] interim judgment by the Office of Environmental Protection (OEP) “that there may have been failures to comply with environmental law”, will rattle government […]

    13th September 2023

    well done keep it up fully agree with the action you are taking it is almost unbelieva

    15th September 2023

    The River Thames is a river used for angling and most of all for recreational use. eg swimming, boating and other water activities. Teddington is a good example of the problems we face. Upstream of Teddington Lock, Thames Water want to abstract river water and to replace it with treated sewage from a nearby town. They are the ones guilty of allowing the sewage to be pumped into the river and will deny it is another cause of water borne diseases.

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