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Water Industry Transparency – Victory for Fish Legal


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Anglers want to know exactly what has been put in there... Anglers want to know exactly what has been put in there...

Fish Legal has won an important victory in its campaign to make England and Wales' polluters come clean about what they pump out into our seas and waterways.






Following a three year battle and concerted attempts by water companies to prevent an appeal, Fish Legal has finally managed to get the case referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). The Judge at the Upper Tribunal (UT) in London has prepared some legal questions to ask the CJEU to help decide whether water companies are "public authorities" under European legislation, and therefore subject to public scrutiny.

Fish Legal acting on its own behalf and as the legal wing of the Angling Trust with its 350,000-strong membership of angling clubs and individuals, has been battling to challenge a series of decisions, firstly by the Information Commissioner, and then the Upper Tribunal in an earlier case which held that water companies are not public authorities and therefore not covered by European Legislation and UK law - which meant their filing cabinets could remain shut.

As long ago as 2009, Fish Legal asked water companies for information on sewage discharges and clean-up operations at the thousands of combined sewer overflows (CSOs) in England and Wales. Two companies - United Utilities and Yorkshire Water - said they were not "public authorities" and therefore did not need to provide the information by law. United Utilities took about two years to get the complete information to Fish Legal, whose lawyers believe the information should be available by right and not just at the whim of the water companies.

The Judge's decision to refer the case to the European courts is exactly what Fish Legal wanted and is the next step in getting the companies to open up to inspection by anyone who wants to know what their local company is doing to their watercourses or beaches.

The Judge will ask the Court of Justice of the European Union to answer questions which help to understand what a "public authority" is in European legislation and whether bodies like water companies are included.

Justin Neal, Head Solicitor for Fish Legal said:

"It has taken three years to get to this position and we may have to wait another two years for the European Courts to provide answers to these questions. Nevertheless, we hope that common sense will prevail and that they will conclude that the privatisation of the water industry didn't take information out of the hands of the general public."

Leading barrister, David Wolfe, who provided the legal advice and representation for FL, commented,

"I have been pleased to assist Fish Legal in getting the case the CJEU. I am optimistic that the CJEU will give an answer which will help everyone wanting information from water companies and other privatised utilities."

Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust and Fish Legal said:

"Water Companies should not be able to hide what they are getting up to. Water quality and quantity affect us all, and our legal team are committed to doing all they can to get access to this vital information not just for anglers, but for everyone who cares about the state of our rivers and coasts. This case could take five years for us to win, but it will be of benefit to generations of anglers and environmental campaigners."

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Comments (12 posted):

dezza on 25/01/2012 12:16:57
This is good news and shows why we need ATr. I would like something similar to happen to The Oil Industry in the North Sea. The demise of the cod, and the rise of the oil industry in this area is in my opinion no coincidence.
Bluenose on 25/01/2012 16:52:38
I would like something similar to happen to The Oil Industry in the North Sea. The demise of the cod, and the rise of the oil industry in this area is in my opinion no coincidence. What's your evidence for suggesting that Ron?
tuolumne fisher on 26/01/2012 07:31:19
whey hey, good on ya angling trust, any hope with a possible timeline is a massive step in the right direction if I'm reading this right, the argument is whether these private water companies are 'public authorities' and are subject to current legislation relating to 'public authories' why is it, some monsieur, madamoiselle or portugeezer is deciding what I should know about the companies that supply me with water whether they're 'public authorities' or not, should be irrelevant, their activities regarding our water should be as transparent as the final product they supply on national radio a while ago, a thames water director responded to the question, why do you need to be exempt from freedom of information requests ? he replied, to protect our business from the competition meaning, you're right to know what we may do with the 3% of freshwater in the world, is secondary to our business continuing to make an extensive profit it dont get no better than collecting something free, that falls from the sky, repackaging it, making a huge profit, taking those profits away from where they were generated, and insisting the consumer dont have freedom of information rights has anyone asked any of these water companies if they are investing in the rush for hydropower on our rivers if they are, going by past behaviour, it must be a right earner if they aint, why not, they no more about the stuff needed to turn a turbine than most
Peter Jacobs on 26/01/2012 07:36:01
What's your evidence for suggesting that Ron? Seemingly none at all; just another outrageous and unsupportable statement by our Ron against his bête noir, the Oil Industry.
geoffmaynard on 26/01/2012 17:16:17
It's probably based on the rise of cod-liver oil :) Mushroom makes some good points though.
Mr Cholmondeley-Corker (PaSC) on 26/01/2012 19:16:59
Well I've worked on a number of offshore installations in the N Sea over the last 25 years. Some very modern and some were floating scrap yards. However, I'm not sure where you think the platforms are effecting the fish stocks Ron. All that was injected into the formations was sea water or in the case of AGWI, gas was re injected. Sea water was removed to use as cooling water and pumped back in. The only waste going in was from the kitchen. This was turned into soup and pumped into the sea where it was eaten by the waiting jelly fish and the odd shark.
The bad one on 27/01/2012 03:06:11
Sorry Ron the collapse of the fish stocks and cod in particular was happening pre 1970s, It just wasn't acknowledged that it was happening. Head stuck firmly up bum by Govts about over explotation of the stocks. They're still at it if truth be known. Whilst not a lover of the Oil Industry myself, I think we must look to the way we, man, has used the sea as our refuge tip for every noxious substance we've ever produced. Think of any substance man has ever used since the birth of the industrial revolution and that substance has and still does turn up in fish flesh the world over. In the case of Fish Legal the claim of "Victory" is somewhat premature and the EU Court of Justice could come down on the side of the Water Industry and say they are not Public Bodies. At best they have won a battle but the war goes on. Their claim of Victory could well turn into a Prescott egg on face.
tuolumne fisher on 27/01/2012 07:28:57
geoff thanks m8 the state of our seas/oceans, is worse than our rivers there is an area of floating debris/rubbish, the size of texas, that is the result of the japanese tsunami wherever you dredge the ocean/sea bottom, plastic is retrieved plankton, jelly fish, mammals and sea birds are all found with plastics within them perhaps the fishing industry is the best example of venture capitalism, you ensure your operation is registered away from the area you target, you then despatch an armada of factory ships, remove most of the life from the targeted area, ****** of somewhere else, and leave those that depend on the areas resources with a new supermarket, so the populace can purchase processed food and any solutions to remedy these problems, are watered down by the inter dependancy that big business generates if you've any doubt that the populace are spoon fed, and intellectually dumbed downed, then recall your chemistry lessons, mercury was and still is labelled as a poison, absorbed into the human body via touch or gas so despite this being known, why was it put into your teeth in amalgam fillings do you remember mummy taking you to the dentist, the dentician wearing gloves and a mask to prevent his contamination next on the agenda seems to be fluoride, where it occurs naturally it has to be monitored, so it doesn't poison the local residents its in toothpaste and instructions are a pea sized amount, not to be swallowed check out what the effects of mercury and fluoride poisoning are for yourself, and if your water company wanna add it to your drinking water, look upon them as you would your childhood dentist, its alright mummy/the nanny state says its safe
dezza on 27/01/2012 08:10:56
This is of course purely an opinion and is based on the following work I did in the period 1999 to 2003. Many off shore oil platforms inject seawater under high pressure into the undersea rock strata. This pressure is used to "push up" oil. This water has to be filtered down to levels approaching 2 microns. Various methods are used for this but to achieve 2 microns means using absolute rating pleated cartridge filters mounted in housings. This "produced" water is pumped back to the platform where entrained oil in the form of droplets and emulsion is removed, prior to it being returned to the sea. In earlier days, devices such as hydrocylones were employed. These are fine for droplets but no good for emulsions. Then certain authorities, worried about oil pollution, started listing maximum remaining oil content on produced water. Figures better than 5 ppm come to mind. Actually this was easy to achieve using high quality oil adsorbant materials in specially designed cartridges using 'O' ring sealing. The problem being that the Oil people didn't like the price, nor the amount of labour required to change out the cartridges, even though one material I discovered could remove heavy metals such as lead and mercury. As a result, I spent a certain amount of time over several years trying to design a cartridge system that not only worked, but was cheap as chips. In the end I gave up and concentrated on projects that gave a better return. That was nearly 10 years ago. Maybe better and cheaper materials have been found.
tuolumne fisher on 27/01/2012 11:22:15
nice one ron, so oil companies didn't want to fit better filters well guess what, our contries water companies dont wanna fit carbon filters to remove endochrines for exactly the same reason you're statement 'in the end I gave up', epitomises how strong the corporate sector is, compared to those that wish to leave a better place for their descendants tell it loud, 'n'tell it proud, be a man not a mouse and maybe it'll inspire someone else
dezza on 27/01/2012 13:48:54
Thanks Mushroom, you have obviously had some experience of filtration techniques. I worked in the filtration industry for nearly 40 years and was involved with many different applications, from hydraulic oil to compressed gases and from injectables to beer and wine. There isn't much we cannot take out of any product, and with the advent of nanofiltration and a few incredible new materials, this industry is going to grow. The Oil Industry was one of the worst clients I ever had to deal with. They expected you as a vendor to bow to their every whim, yet some of the engineers I met were bloody useless, and totally brainwashed by the company. The story is much the same with water companies. There are many contaminants in your tap water, and I strongly suggest if you value your health to fit a decent filter on your water supply. This will incorporate activated carbon for sure, as well as other substances which will remove other nasties.
tuolumne fisher on 28/01/2012 06:21:26
nice one ron perhaps you might wanna share some of your filtration knowledge with the water companies, doh, they've already got it well feel free to share it with us, maybe the ATr will notice and share it with the minister mr benyon

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angling trust, Fish Legal, Aquatic Pollution