The process industries have criticised the Environment Agency’s pollution league table dubbed the ‘Hall of Shame’ for being one sided.
Describing the exercise as ‘unbalanced’, the Chemical Industries Association (CIA) said the table ignored industry investment in pollution prevention over the past ten years.
Environmental reports, produced by 70% of CIA member companies, show that discharges of the most dangerous ‘red-list’ substances fell 95% in the 1990 97 period. Volatile organic compound emissions fell 28% in 1995 1997. The industry’s energy efficiency improved 14% between 1990 and 1997.
ICI, which tops the league table, described the publication as ‘yesterday’s news’. It has spent £140m in the past three years on environmental improvements.
‘The positive news for the environment is that we are announcing this month that in the past three years we have reduced by a third the environmental impact of ICI’s legally permitted emissions at its plants in the UK,’ the company said.
The water industry association, Water UK, said the table needed to be put into perspective. Graham Setterfield, its director of services, said: ‘Our round-the-clock operations involve 6,500 sewage treatment plants and over 180,000 pumping stations in a 300,000km sewage network.’
Half of the industry’s £30bn investments over the past ten years have been in water quality and environmental improvements, he added.
Tyseley Waste Disposal topped the waste sub-league because of one £95,000 fine for losing a harmless radioactive source. The company acknowledged the severity of the matter and expressed its regret at the time.
Environment Agency chief executive Ed Gallagher has called for higher pollution fines. The average fine last year was £2,786. ‘Clearly this is not sending out a strong enough message,’ he said.