Results form EA criminal investigation into water companies to ‘take many months’

The Environment Agency (EA) has completed site visits and is moving on to the data analysis stage of its biggest ever criminal investigation into water companies over sewage spill non-compliance, but the results could take “many months”.

Tomorrow marks two years since the EA launched its investigation on “potential breaches of environmental permit conditions” by all water and sewerage companies operating in England, involving over 2,000 wastewater treatment works. 

After speaking to the former interim executive director of the EA earlier this year, ENDS understands this investigation has been coined “Op Standard”, and is the biggest undertaking of its kind in EA history.


In an update given on the EA blog, the agency said specialist investigators have now visited 114 wastewater treatment works identified as “indicator sites” which it said “cover a spectrum of works ranging in size, across the entire area covered by each water company”.

The update said each water company has had around 10 different site visits from investigators, with evidence obtained on working practices at each site and how the systems work and are monitored. 

This data and the “thousands of documents obtained” is now set to be analysed, which the EA said “will take many months”. 

When the investigation is complete, the EA said it “will consider all options available under our enforcement and sanction policy”.