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Friday, 28 September, 2001, 13:00 GMT 14:00 UK
'Zero tolerance' needed on pollution
Smoking chimney
Average fines for polluters are on the rise
The UK's Environment Agency says pollution is being treated as an acceptable risk by too many businesses, and is calling for a "zero tolerance" approach to the problem.

The agency also says fines currently levied on polluters are too small to act as a deterrent.

Last year nearly 700 businesses and individuals were prosecuted for serious pollution offences.

The worst offender was Thames Water, which had five court appearances, six prosecuted offences and fines totalling 288,000.

Other companies to fall foul of the regulations included Railtrack and Southern Water.

Action not apathy

The Environment Agency said greater consideration of environmental issues was needed by senior staff.

"Businesses must understand their responsibilities to the public and the environment," said the agency's chief executive Barbara Young.

"We need to see a culture change across management, with zero tolerance for pollution replacing apathy and acceptance of poor environmental performance."

Bigger fines needed

The average fine for businesses prosecuted by the Environment Agency rose to 8,532 in 2000, up from 6,800 the previous year.

But the Agency says this is not enough to deter polluters.

"The Environment Agency takes a tough line with businesses that pollute, but with a few exceptions, the scale of penalties levied by the courts makes pollution - and prosecution - an acceptable risk and an acceptable business expense across England and Wales."

The call for greater fines was backed by the environmental campaigners.

"If fines properly reflected the seriousness of polluting the environment, company directors would be forced to take environmental laws more seriously" said Charles Secrett, director of Friends of the Earth.

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