We strive to operate our network in a way that minimises risk to the environment and to public safety, and abide by strict Environment Agency (EA) regulations.
The EA scores water and wastewater companies’ performance, against measures such as regulatory compliance, pollution incidents and improvement plans. In 2013/14, we maintained our upper quartile industry position.
Performance highlights and issues in 2013/14 included:
Sewer standards: our sewage treatment works must meet strict EA discharge permit conditions which govern the treatment and disposal of wastewater. In 2013, just below 99 er cent of our works met these standards – ahead of the industry average and this means we have performed better than our target for the last six consecutive years. However we know there is still room for improvement and we have plans in place to improve our assets, processes and procedures in order to continually improve performance.
Pollution incidents: our wastewater pollution performance showed reductions in category 2 & 3 incidents and no category 1 incidents – which are the most serious.
When these are normalized by the length of our wastewater network we are better than the industry average for both pollution incidents – 48 per 10,000km of sewer pipe – and serious pollution incidents – 1.1 per 10,000km of sewer pipe. Whenever these incidents occur we work closely with the Environment Agency and other partners to minimise the environmental impacts.
Unfortunately as part of our water operations we had one category 1 serious pollution incident. The incident on Bradshaw brook was a result of a quantity of chemical from a water treatment works entering the watercourse via our sites drainage system. This happened whilst a temporary chemical storage tank was being removed. The incident regretfully caused a significant fish kill.
We take this kind of incident very seriously and we have undertaken improvements both at the site concerned and other sites across the business to ensure we prevent this type of incident again. We also had 16 category 2 & 3 incidents in our water business which again we think is unacceptable and we are working hard to improve the way we manage our water networks to reduce these incidents.
Large fine for biogas incident: sometimes we get things wrong and have to pay the price. This year we received a large fine from the Environment Agency for a potentially explosive biogas leak at our Stockport wastewater treatment works in 2011. The fine of £400,000 was for two counts of breaching regulation 38(2) of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010.
The charges relate to when a gas holder, that is part of the sludge treatment installation system, suffered a catastrophic failure. The incident released 50,000 cubic metres of biogas (CO2, methane and hydrogen sulphide) into the atmosphere.
We pleaded guilty to the charges and accepted that our maintenance procedures could have been tighter.
Beyond our own assets: we realise that we can't deliver the improvements on our own. That’s why we have set up our Catchment Wise approach to address the wider impacts on water quality in the North West’s rivers and bathing waters.
If you would like to send us a comment about this report, please email our Head of Sustainability, Chris Matthews