Firm accuses water authority of failing to disclose information

A WEST country firm is set to break new legal ground by suing a water authority for allegedly refusing to give out information about water quality.

Barnstable's Toller Beattie is launching a High Court action against South West Water Services (SWW) for breach of the Environmental Information Regulations 1992 and European directives.

It is believed to be the first court action brought in this country under the regulations which force public bodies to disclose certain environmental information.

But SWW denies that it has broken the law and is set to defend the writ.

Spokeswoman Heather Gilling says: “The company provides significant detailed information for public scrutiny both in relation to drinking water quality and waste water treatment compliance. The information available exceeds that required by law.”

The plaintiff is solicitor Peter Scott who successfully acted for shellfisherman Brian Hill in his claim against SWW for pollution of the Taw Estuary.

“This latest case raises a very important principle of public access to environmental information,” he says.

“SWW holds massive quantities of environmental data, particularly about parts of the water cycle where the National Rivers Authority cannot supply the public with information.

“It also supplies environmental information to the Government on the basis of which decisions are made. If this information is not made available to the public there is an enormous information gap,” he says.

Scott says he is bringing the case in the interests of the firm, its clients and the south west shellfishing industry.