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Guardian article on road runoff

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An article published in the Guardian today covering road pollution has said there is no monitoring by regulators of thousands of outfalls and soakaways on the country’s road network, and that the scale of the impact for the wildlife the public is not known.

Highways drainage and urban diffuse pollution is a serious issue causing 18 percent of failures for water bodies in England under the Water Framework Directive. They are not directly regulated by the Environment Agency but they do work with the government and partner organisations to reduce pollution from roads. Responsibility for these outfalls rests with National Highways and local authorities.

However, the suggestion of permitting tens of thousands of outfalls is flawed as it would provide little in the way of additional pollution control and would be impractical to fit water treatment to every outfall. In addition, highways owners like National Highways and Local Authorities have no control over what comes off the roads from vehicles themselves.

As such, permitting every outfall would not lead to effective controls, would be extremely costly and would waste precious resources on administration, which are otherwise being used to make a positive impact on the environment. Instead, the Environment Agency takes a collaborative approach and works with National Highways on the delivery of the current and future Road Investment Strategy’s to minimise environmental impact, including putting in treatment at higher risk outfalls.

An Environment Agency spokesperson said:

“While highway outfalls are not directly regulated by the Environment Agency, we continue to work with the government and partner organisations to reduce pollution from our roads.

“This includes working closely with National Highways to influence their Road Investment Strategy to include pollution mitigating schemes on their priority list of outfalls and on joint incident response strategies to minimise the risk of pollution arising from road traffic accidents.”

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  1. Comment by John w. Baxter posted on

    Any drainage that does not go into waste water treatment works operated by our water companies helps reduce the flows to full treatment in theory at waste water treatment works……but still we have to put up with the pathetic amount of waste dumped into our water courses,even in times of low or no rainfall simply because we have failed to invest in effective treatment capacity of waste water. To see reed beds used by the highways people is a very good signal that some attempt is being made to reduce the damage done by highway runoff…….if only increased investment were made compulsory in the water industry to make them compliant with the law we may have a network of water courses to be proud of instead of the open sewers we have been made to put up with, shut up with and pay up !.