United Utilities drops from four star to three star in Environment Agency report

Lake Windermere, Cumbria
The report covers England's nine water and sewage companies. Credit: PA

United Utilities has dropped from a four star rating to three in a report published by the Environment Agency on water companies environmental performance.

The four star rating system is used to measure the environmental performance of England’s nine water and sewerage companies.

Since 2011, the Environment Agency has used the Environmental Performance Assessment (EPA) to rate each water and sewage company in England from one star to four star. The rating takes into account performance on environmental commitments such as pollution incidents and treatment work permit compliance.

The drop for United Utilities has seen them fall from four star (industry leading) to three star (good). This was due to the company’s performance around permit compliance.

United Utilities achieved 98.5% for permit compliance, which has to be above 99% and green for a water company to achieve a four star rating as the Environment Agency continues to expect better performance in this area.

In other areas, there were no serious pollution incidents during 2022, making United Utilities one of only two companies meeting basic requirements for this metric.

Carol Holt, Area Director for the Environment Agency in the North West, said: “It is disappointing to see this drop in rating for United Utilities and we are clear that things simply must improve.

“While there have been some improvements, including a drop in pollution incidents, there is still much to be done.

“We are constantly carrying out enforcement activity, including putting water companies before the courts and there are several criminal investigations ongoing in relation to incidents and potential permit breaches.

"We welcome the Environment Agency’s new powers to issue unlimited penalties when companies commit environmental offences and do not meet the high standards that the public rightly expect.”

A United Utilities spokesperson said: “We have achieved the top ratings of three or four stars every year since the performance assessment was introduced in 2011, demonstrating our track record in protecting the environment.

"For 2022, we were again the frontier company in minimising pollution incidents and were awarded the top-ranked green status on all but one metric, delivering improved or sustained high performance. We remain fully focused on delivering performance improvements to protect and enhance the environment for the benefit of all our stakeholders.”

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