Years of budget cuts for the Environment Agency take their toll
According to the Public Service Union UNISON, recent extreme weather resulting in tidal surges and floods have brought the Environment Agency’s work into sharp focus. Government scientific advisers estimate the impact of global warming will result in ‘four times as many homes’ at risk of flood over the coming two decades.
While government capital investment has mostly been protected from cuts, at the same time it has dramatically slashed revenue spending, in other words the money the Agency is given for maintenance and repairs. The real picture is depressing: while inflation has shot up by 11%, their grant has been cut by more than 25% in real terms.
- During 2009-10 the Environment Agency were given total government grants of £846.7m
- For 2010-11, it was reduced to £799.6m
- In 2011-12 it went down to £749.5m
- More cuts in 2012-13 reduced Agency grants to £723m
- 2019 saw another cut of £14m, a reduction of 16%
In 2019 so far, we’ve seen serious flooding at Sheffield, Rotherham, Doncaster, Barnsley, Hull, Leeds, the River Derwent and Derbyshire, the River Trent and Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Birmingham, Shropshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, the River Avon and Warwickshire, the South East of England, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Gloucestershire.
Environmental pollution – Air pollution kills 5 a week in Bristol
Five people die every week in Bristol thanks to high levels of air pollution, according to researchers at King’s College London. Fine particulates and nitrogen dioxide pollute the city’s air and cause as many as 260 people to die each year, a figure that’s been extrapolated to 36,000 deaths across Britain per year.
Suspect arrested over Rainham industrial fire
Water pollution is a big issue in the UK, and industrial fire is one of the biggest causes. Police were called at 1am on 26th November 26 to a fire in New Road, Rainham, which took 40 firefighters to get under control. A man has been arrested on suspicion of arson and taken to an east London hospital. Nobody had to be evacuated, and enquires are underway to establish the cause of the fire.
There has also been an industrial fire at a commercial premises in Romford, Essex, probably caused by someone putting a stack of magazines on top of an extension lead which then overheated. There’s been another fire in Lancing, in an industrial unit, and a large one at Thorpe Industrial Estate in Surrey. A dramatic fire broke out in Newhaven earlier this month, again on an industrial estate, and another in East Anglia on 21st of this month. It just goes to show how high the fire risk is, and how often industrial fires happen. Our concern is what happens to the firewater, that is the potentially thousands of litres of water the fire services use to extinguish the fire mixed with whatever chemicals, oils or other nasties you might be handling on your site.
A cursory look at Google News shows reports of 7 industrial fires across the UK in the last 4 days, which is a little higher than the average 300 per year reported by the Fire Service but isn’t surprising to us. I would happily bet you a packet of Polo’s that none of these businesses had adequate firewater containment systems, processes or policies in place.
People treated in hospital after a Kent industrial spill
Apparently ‘dozens’ of people were treated on the scene for breathing difficulties after a chemical spill at a Kent farm. Paramedics came to the aid of 57 people, mostly fruit packers, who were affected at Rumwood Green Farm near Maidstone. Five fire engines, 40 firefighters, air ambulances and a specialist chemical unit also attended the scene. It looks like those treated were exposed to deadly carbon monoxide, and one person was taken to hospital. The incident was contained at the site.
Chemical spills in London, Bristol and Carlisle
30th October 2019 saw emergency services are dealing with a chemical spill outside a Harrods store in London. One person was treated at the scene and was later taken to hospital. Brompton Road in Knightsbridge was closed and local people were evacuated. Apparently there was a strong smell rather like burning plastic and police believe the source was a nearby Kuwaiti restaurant.
On 9th November a woman needed medical treatment after a chemical spill in Lamonby, Carlisle, and on 11th November Iceland in Emersons Green, Bristol, suffered a chemical spill from a leaking freezer that saw one woman taken to hospital. They may have been relatively small spills most likely dealt with through the application of spill kits if they were available, but if one person is badly hurt or dies, it fast becomes a disaster.
Contain spills, prevent water pollution, avoid fines and protect your reputation by doing decent thing
It’s our job to make sure businesses like yours stay safe from spills, leaks, illegal dumping, and the fines, physical damage, personal injury and brand damage they cause. If you want to make sure you firm has done everything possible to stay safe, let’s talk.
David Cole MSEE
David is a pioneer of the spill containment and water pollution prevention industry with 30 years experience. He was instrumental in the development of CIRIA736 with The Environment Agency and is passionate about preventing water pollution.