Updated: Industrial pollution at record low

13th November 2013

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Water ,
  • Resource extraction ,
  • Engineering and metals ,
  • Chemicals ,
  • Manufacturing



Serious pollution incidents in England fell to a new low in 2012, as regulated sites continued to improve their environmental performance, confirms the Environment Agency

In its annual report on industrial emissions, pollution incidents and the performance of permitted sites, the regulator confirms it dealt with just 504 serious pollution events last year, down from 548 in 2011. The figure is the lowest on record, with the number of serious incidents falling 55% since 2000.

Just 38% of serious pollution incidents in 2012 were from permitted sites – down from 42% last year – and the regulator praised the water and sewage sector in particular for improving its performance. Following an increase in incidents in 2011, significant polluting events caused by England’s nine water companies fell by 47% year-on-year (from 115 to 61).

The agency warned, however, that serious pollution from the waste sector increased for the second year in a row, with the majority of incidents relating to odours from biowaste and landfill sites.

The 2012 figures also reveal that a record number of permitted sites are performing at the highest level of compliance, with 78% of environmental permit holders were rated as ‘A’ – up from 76% in 2011.

The figures reveal that there has been no improvement in the number of poorly performing organisations (those ranked D, E or F), however. The biowaste sector had the highest proportion of D, E and F ranked sites, followed by the metals industry and the waste storage, transfer and use sectors.

“Overall, the environmental performance of industry in England is good and continues to improve,” commented Paul Leinster, chief executive at the agency. “Serious pollution incidents have more than halved since 2000. It is good to see that 78% of sites scored an ‘A’ rating for environmental performance this year – the highest ever – even in difficult economic times.”

While serious pollution incidents were down, the agency’s figures reveal that industrial emissions of sulphur (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particular matter (PM10) increased significantly in 2012.

The regulator cited the cold winter and high gas prices for an increase in coal-fired electricity generation, which saw SOx levels rise by 19% year-on-year, while emissions of NOx and PM10 increased by 13% and 14% respectively. In 2012, 40% of the UK’s electricity came from coal-powered plants, the highest since 1996.

Meanwhile, the first report on NIEA compliance and enforcement rates from the environment department in Northern Ireland confirms that compliance with industrial water orders stood at 91% in 2012/13 – a 4% increase since 2008/9.

The number of breaches related to protected sites has also fallen, down 57% on 2008/9 figures. However, the change may be explained by the new risk-based monitoring regime introduced in 2010/11, under which the percentage of sites inspected fell from 97% to just 28%.

Transform articles

Agency prosecution brings largest fine for a water company

The Environment Agency has successfully prosecuted Southern Water for thousands of illegal raw sewage discharges that polluted rivers and coastal waters in Kent, resulting in a record £90m fine.

23rd September 2021

Read more

In Elliott-Smith v Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the claimant applied for judicial review of the legality of the defendants’ joint decision to create the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (UK ETS) as a substitute for UK participation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS).

30th July 2021

Read more

Thames Water has been fined £4m after untreated sewage escaped from sewers below London into a park and a river.

30th July 2021

Read more

None of England’s water and sewerage companies achieved all environmental expectations for the period 2015 to 2020, the Environment Agency has revealed. These targets included the reduction of total pollution incidents by at least one-third compared with 2012, and for incident self-reporting to be at least 75%.

30th July 2021

Read more

Global greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture are projected to increase by 4% over the next 10 years, despite the carbon intensity of production declining. That is according to a new report from the UN food agency and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which forecasts that 80% of the increase will come from livestock.

30th July 2021

Read more

Half of consumers worldwide now consider the sustainability of food and drink itself, not just its packaging, when buying, a survey of 14,000 shoppers across 18 countries has discovered. This suggests that their understanding of sustainability is evolving to include wellbeing and nutrition, with sustainable packaging now considered standard.

30th July 2021

Read more

Billions of people worldwide have been unable to access safe drinking water and sanitation in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a progress report from the World Health Organisation focusing on the UN’s sixth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6) – to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030”.

30th July 2021

Read more

New jobs that help drive the UK towards net-zero emissions are set to offer salaries that are almost one-third higher than those in carbon-intensive industries, research suggests.

5th July 2021

Read more

IEMA has today urged the UK government to focus on developing green skills and expertise across business, industry and civil society following the publication of an alarming report from the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

16th June 2021

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert