The Upper Tribunal ruled that water companies in England & Wales are ‘public authorities’ for the purposes of the Environmental Information Regulations (2004) and so are under a legal duty to disclose environmental information they hold to the public.
The implications of this test case, which was fought over the past 6 years, have been felt industry-wide.
Fish Legal often wants to know about sewage pollution and over-abstraction that damages rivers and coastal waters to help it fight legal cases on behalf of its member clubs and fishery owners. This judgment means it now has a right to get this information directly from the water companies themselves. In the past, several companies refused to provide any information when asked, whilst others expressly refused to disclose information in line with this law. The Judges in this case ruled they were wrong to do so.
Any concerned individual or organisation now has a right to the environmental information held by the water and sewerage companies.
The water and sewerage industry causes significant damage to the environment every year. This is partly due to the very nature of what it does in treating sewage and abstracting water, but in many cases is due to mismanagement and underreporting of incidents. The industry will now have to open up what it does to much greater public scrutiny.
A copy of the judgement can be read here: https://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKUT/AAC/2015/52.html