Water services regulator targets judicial review for ‘failure to act’ on regulation of wastewater discharges

A legal campaign group has brought an action in the High Court against England and Wales water utility regulator Ofwat over alleged failures to regulate sewage discharges into rivers, lakes and the sea.


The group, Wild Justice, said it believed Ofwat had “failed to meet its legal obligations to ensure sewers are fit for purpose in the 21st century”.

As a result, untreated sewage has been dumped into waterways more than 350,000 times in each of the past two years, the group claims.

In a pre-action protocol letter sent in the spring, the group expressed concern that a “lack of action (including monitoring and enforcement measures) with respect to the planned spill and unplanned and untreated sewage in rivers and other water bodies creates and maintains excessive levels of nutrients which, in turn, are very detrimental to the health and biodiversity of these waterways”.

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He added that he believed Ofwat’s alleged inactivity put the regulator in breach of the Water Industry Act 1991 and the Urban Wastewater Treatment (England and Country) Regulations 1994. Wales).

Ofwat’s response to the pre-action letter was not sufficient, according to the group, and it has now applied to the High Court for leave for judicial review.

“We are aiming for Ofwat to face up to its legal responsibilities and the only way to do that is to go to court,” the group said.

Wild Justice then launched a crowdfunding campaign which has already reached its goal of £40,000.

Wild Justice said it works closely with Windrush Against Sewage Pollution, a campaign group that investigates and analyzes sewage discharges and has brought these issues to Ofwat’s attention.

Leigh Day’s lawyers are acting for the group.

Adam Carey