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Coverage of Operator Self Monitoring

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: water

A winter’s morning in Dedham Vale.

There has been coverage in i News on Operator Self Monitoring - the process introduced in 2009 by which water and sewerage companies must notify the Environment Agency if they are in breach of their permit conditions.

It incorrectly implies Operator Self Monitoring is the only way EA checks that water companies are complying with their permits – this is not the case. EA also does its own monitoring and on-site inspections, both announced and unannounced.

Operator Self-Monitoring was introduced in 2009 alongside guidance on Environment Agency inspections. The use of operator self-monitoring brings water and sewerage companies in line with other industries which have been monitored in this way for many years e.g. waste and chemical sectors. Under the polluter pays principle, they should also be the ones paying for it.

In 2019 the EA increased, not decreased, its regulatory scrutiny of sewage treatment works to include auditing, data analysis and other interventions as well as inspections. This removed the outdated inspection guidance and replaced it with action to use a wider range of regulatory tools. This increases the level of scrutiny, rather than reduces it.

We have placed new requirements on water companies to significantly increase their monitoring and reporting so that pollution data is available to all. We have also launched a major investigation into possible unauthorised spills at thousands of sewage treatment works - we will always seek to hold those responsible for environmental harm to account.

An Environment Agency spokesperson said: 

The Operator Self Monitoring approach is independently accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service.

Though we do carry out unannounced on-site inspections, this is not the only way we check that water companies are compliant. Since Operator Self Monitoring was introduced in 2009, we make sure that data we have demanded from water companies is assessed as part of our regulation of them.

We have also launched a major investigation into possible unauthorised spills at thousands of sewage treatment works, and will always seek to hold those responsible for environmental harm to account.

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  1. Comment by Jacqui Watson posted on

    I do not believe that the environment agency follow up and prosecute illegal dumping of raw sewerage into rivers regularly or consistently enough. If they did there wouldn’t be the appalling figures of how many rivers in England are polluted. On the Environmental Agency website you state there have been in the region of 40000 storm overflows between 2015 and 2019 yet only 44 prosecutions. Instead of complaining about the lack of resources given to you by the government use the money earned by fining the water companies to fund more staff.

  2. Comment by Derek Stewart Smith posted on

    Self Regulation (Monitoring) does not work . There is irrefutable evidence of out of control methods of oil and gas extraction happening at nearly every onshore oil and gas wells throughout the UK.
    Methane is illegally being leaked and Permits have been issued by the Environment Agency to vent unlimited amounts of methane and other VOCs from oil Well sites together with unlimited amounts of Radioactive gas
    Methane is up to 80 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide.

  3. Comment by Richard Ogden posted on

    Self monitoring worries me !

  4. Comment by Bryan Gordon-Smith posted on

    If you were holding those damaging rivers to account, the monitoring system, self administered, double checked and spot checked - was working effectively, why are rivers in such a mess and deteriorating?
    Does this response not sound that DEFRA, EA OFWAT are batting for the wrong side!!