Decline in pollution incidents in 2014

14th July 2015


Serious pollution incidents dropped by 11% in 2014 compared to 2013, according to the latest data from the Environment Agency.

The statistics reveal that there were 614 serious pollution incidents in 2014, down from 688 in 2013. However, the total is still higher than those recorded in 2012, said the regulator.

Activities permitted under the environmental permitting regulations saw a 23% drop in incidents, from 323 in 2013 to 249 in 2014. Over three-quarters of these incidents (79%) affected air quality, the agency said, with odour, smoke, dust and noise being the main issues.

The figures reveal that, after rising substantially between 2010 and 2013, the number of odour, smoke, dust and noise incidents fell 25% decrease in 2014. The waste industry is responsible for most of the incidents, as an increase in recycling means that there is more above-ground storage of materials waiting for processing, the agency said.

Meanwhile, incidents from sites outside the environmental permitting regulations increased by 6%, from 218 in 2013 to 232 in 2014. The agency confirmed that this was a rising trend, with pollution at non-permitted sites, mainly agricultural premises, resulting in damage to watercourses.

Farming caused the highest number of serious pollution incidents in 2014 – 97 or 16% of the total. The water industry was responsible for 10% of the total; permitted non-hazardous waste treatment facilities for 8%; and permitted biowaste treatment facilities with and landfill sites for 6% each.

The number of prosecutions taken by the agency continues to fall. In 2007, over 300 companies were prosecuted for pollution incidents, but last year there were fewer than 100 prosecutions. Meanwhile, the number of enforcement notices rose.

Matthew Farrow, executive director of the Environmental Industries Commission, said: “Serious pollution incidents remain a concern and the data shows no significant downward trend.

“At the same time it’s clear that prosecutions are used much more sparingly with sanctions, such as enforcement notices and undertakings often preferred. There’s nothing wrong with a more proportionate, flexible set of sanctions but they do not seem to have made much impact on pollution levels.”

The fall in pollution incidents in the waste sector is encouraging, he added.

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