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STATEMENT: River Action responds to Yorkshire Water’s record payout after polluting Harrogate watercourse

“Environmental laws state that the polluter must pay. However, in this case the £1 million to be paid to two environmental charities – the local Wildlife Trust and Rivers Trust – to carry out environmental improvements is both voluntary and so insignificant it will be a mere dent in the water company’s balance sheet.

“Water companies see paying fines for polluting rivers as a calculated business risk. The Environment Agency is meant to be a powerful regulator, monitoring pollution and enforcing the law. How can it take seven months let alone seven years to punish a polluter so obviously guilty? And why wasn’t the penalty enforced through legal action rather than left to be optional? These are yet more demonstrations of the Environment Agency being unfit to be a regulator of our precious water resources.

“Funding to NGOs helps with natural solutions like restoring wetlands and wildlife is helpful but the Environment Agency should be tackling the source of the problem: the lack of investment in water company sewage infrastructure over decades.

“The Environment Agency and its sibling water industry regulator, Ofwat, must be properly financed, structurally reviewed and modernised. They just don’t have the resources in place to prosecute polluters with existing environmental law, nor, in the case of Ofwat, do they stand up for the consumer and demand the water companies fix their leaky infrastructure. 

“Each individual water company – including Yorkshire Water – needs to have their structures, financing and business plans reviewed to make sure they are fit to service a growing pollution and to cope with the pressures of increasing floods and droughts caused by climate change.”


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  • Ian Woolverton, Senior PR Coordinator: 07377 547 362;


River Action is a registered charity founded in 2021 by its chairman Charles Watson to campaign for cleaner rivers across the UK. It has subsequently grown rapidly into one of the country’s leading environmental freshwater campaign groups. It has a mission to rescue Britain’s rivers from a toxic cocktail of agricultural, sewage and chemical pollution, as well as other threats such as excessive water abstraction.

With the active support of many leading figures of the UK environment movement through its advisory board, River Action’s campaigning is based around empowering communities to protect and restore their rivers; mobilising public opinion to influence policy and enforce river protection; as well as advocating for urgent government policy and changes in industry practice.