Heavy fines cut water pollution incidents

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SEVERE water pollution incidents in England and Wales fell by 40 per cent last year, from 658 in 1990 to 386 in 1991. The National Rivers Authority, the Government's watchdog, said that this was mainly due to huge increases in the size of fines imposed on polluters, and its 'tough and rigorous' policing of rivers and coasts, writes Nicholas Schoon.

Farms were responsible for the largest number of the severe cases of pollution - just over a quarter. The water industry caused a quarter, mainly due to discharges from sewage works. Industry was the next largest contributor, responsible for one-fifth.

The NRA's annual report on pollution incidents, published yesterday, says that last year there was a marked increase in the highest fines imposed on persistent polluters.

The largest was pounds 200,000 against British Steel, which polluted the Severn estuary with fuel oil from its Port Talbot works. The company, which had six previous convictions, funded a clean-up operation costing pounds 68,000.

Almost 30,000 incidents were reported in England and Wales in 1991 - more than ever before. The NRA found evidence of pollution in 24,469 of these cases but the great majority were minor.