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Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Now Brexit is destroying our environment

As if empty supermarket shelves, tens of thousands of unfilled jobs in key industries and a massive increase in red tape for businesses was not bad enough, we are now faced with one of the other consequences of Brexit being more polluted water courses.

The Independent reports that the government has given polluters the green light to dump risky sewage that has not been properly cleaned into rivers and the sea because Brexit and Covid have disrupted normal water treatment.

They add that in recent weeks some businesses have found it more difficult to get hold of water treatment chemicals because of supply chain disruption at ports blamed primarily on Britain's departure from the EU:

The Environment Agency this week said companies struggling to get hold of the required chemicals would be allowed to "discharge effluent without meeting the conditions" of their permits, which normally require water to be treated by a multi-step process.

Rolling shortages have hit different parts of the UK economy since the government took the country out of EU's customs union and single market – imposing new border bureaucracy on importers and exporters.

The ending of free movement and the creation of new red tape on doing business with Britain's largest trading partner has also exacerbated a shortage of lorry drivers, with the logistical nightmare compounded by coronavirus.

Water treatment is the latest sector to be hit, following concerns last week about a blood tube shortage hitting the NHS and reports of intermittent shortages in supermarkets across the country.

In a statement released on Monday, the Environment Agency said: "Normally, you need a permit under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 to discharge treated effluent from a waste water treatment works (WwTW) to surface water or groundwater. Permits contain conditions that control the quality of the effluent you can discharge.

"You may not be able to comply with your permit if you cannot get the chemicals you use to treat the effluent you discharge because of the UK’s new relationship with the EU, coronavirus (COVID-19), [or] other unavoidable supply chain failures, for example the failure of a treatment chemical supplier.

"If you follow the conditions in this regulatory position statement (RPS) you can discharge effluent without meeting the conditions in your permit. You must get written agreement from your Environment Agency water company account manager before you use this RPS."

Companies should "resume use of chemicals to treat effluent as soon as is practicable", the agency said. The regulatory relaxation will last until at least the end of the year, with an extension possible.

This is an entirely unacceptable response to this problem. It is bad enough that water companies discharged raw sewage in UK rivers no fewer than 400,000 times last year, without adding to is, and it being sanctioned by the body meant to be regulating water quality.
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