In 2009, major changes to legislation came into force for environmental impairment. These changes mean every business is now at risk of prosecution if they cause damage to the environment.
Damage to the environment encompasses a wide range of environmental impairments, including pollution of land, water, air and biodiversity damage (i.e. damage to protected species and habitats).
Damage can be the result of an obvious sudden incident such as an explosion or from a gradual cause such as a leaking underground pipe.
Environmental damage can lead to other problems such as illness from drinking contaminated water or breathing contaminated air; property damage to cars showered with corrosive chemicals; or “amenity” issues for those that have to live in the changes environment.
Businesses are responsible for ensuring they undertake practices to minimise the likelihood of causing such damage whilst carrying out their operations and can be held responsible for all clean-up costs if their measures fail.
A standalone environmental liability policy is designed to cover the widest possible range of environmental liabilities.
The hidden costs of Environmental Pollution
In the majority of cases, only the court fine is made public. In almost every case there are additional “hidden costs” involved in returning the polluted area back to pre-incident levels.
A UK water company was fined £15,000 for polluting a river. However they also had to pay the bill for:
|Tankering away the chemical||£32,600|
|Plugging the leak||£8,300|
|An initial fish survey||£6,000|
|Installing new equipment to detect a leak||£60,000|
|EA attendance charges||£2,271|
|Further fish surveys reserve||£20,000|
|Restocking the stretch of river||£63,500|
It is important to remember environmental liability risks can be costly to handle and time consuming to deal with in the short, medium and long term. Preventive measures and financial protection policies are an essential part of any organisations’ management plans.
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