Coronavirus: Environment Agency Operational Update – 24 April 2020

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We are aware communities, businesses and the environment rely on our services. This includes the advice and guidance we offer, our regulatory work which continues to protect the environment, people and wildlife from harm, Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management and other roles.

We will continue to review the situation in light of further advice from the government and will update you accordingly – in the meantime, we remind you to check the government’s guidance at www.gov.uk/coronavirus

Our Staff

We remain fully operational, with the majority of our staff working from home. Our remaining frontline teams will be active, where necessary, on the ground tackling priority issues such as flood risk and pollution. All staff, wherever they are working, are following NHS guidance to reduce their risk of contracting Coronavirus.

The role our field teams play in our work is critical and remains a priority. We have agreed ways of working for field teams to reduce the risk of contracting Coronavirus.

We are prioritising high-risk assets and activities, maximising social distancing and working as flexibly as possible to reduce the number of face to face interactions between team members. We’re taking protective measures to safeguard kit and vehicles used for operational duties.

We are also ensuring our contractors are aware of site and people restrictions and are following the correct procedures.

Offices

The Environment Agency has closed most of its offices, with only four, Horizon House in Bristol, Quadrant 2 in Sheffield, Temple borough in Rotherham and 2 Marsham Street in London remaining open to essential staff only.

Our flood defence construction work

The Environment Agency is reviewing flood defence schemes currently under construction to make sure our staff and contractors are able to work safely while trying to meet deadlines to reduce flood risk for vulnerable communities.

Much of our work has been identified as essential by the government and we are to continue flood defence construction work. Where work continues we have ensured that everyone involved has been trained on social distancing and will not put anyone at risk. If the work cannot be done safely the work will stop.

Inspections of flood risk assets damaged in Storms Ciara and Dennis are still underway using local inspectors. We are prioritising our work to protect the most at-risk communities to ensure they continue to remain resilient. We will carry out a full assessment of the impact of Coronavirus on our asset repair programme as the situation develops, but we will continue to prioritise work that poses a significant risk to lives and livelihoods. If repairs to major infrastructure assets are disrupted by the impact of Coronavirus, we will where possible put in place temporary mitigation for the risk, pending a full repair.

We anticipate all our work will be impacted by the controls we and government have put in place. This is likely to mean that completion dates for new projects will slip and other key activities may take place at less regular intervals. We will do our best to keep communities informed of any delays and the action that we are taking to minimise them.

Flood Warning Service

Continuing to protect lives and livelihoods through our flood warning service remains fundamental to our work as the nation continues to deal with the effects of coronavirus. In order to protect our flood warning service during this difficult time, we have made some minor changes to the service.

In order to safeguard this essential service we will be focussing on the most important warnings, where flooding is expected or where there is a risk to life. We will continue to issue our lowest level of flood warnings – flood alerts – where there is a need to take action but will temporarily stop issuing them where they indicate that there is a very low likelihood of flooding taking place. Our teams will continue to work around the clock to ensure that people have the early warning and safety advice they need to stay safe.

Our regulatory role

We will continue to carry out regulatory visits to sites that could cause serious environmental harm where required. However, we are reducing regulatory visits to other sites and review how best to regulate them in accordance with the government guidance.

Our fisheries

Our priority is to ensure the safety of people and the angling community. Following the government’s guidance on coronavirus, anglers are advised not to go fishing. Recreational fisheries businesses are also advised that they are subject to closure regulations as set out by the government.

We continue to enforce the current fisheries regulations such as fishing without a licence or fishing in the close season on waters where the close season applies. Enforcement will be subject to relevant social distancing measures.

Fishing licences remain on sale, at present we are not currently offering a refund on licences or changes to the time limit. All options for fishing licences remain under review and we will communicate with customers should there be any change to the fishing licensing scheme.

Our waterways

The Environment Agency asks the owners of all boats kept or used on our managed waterways not to make any boat journeys, other than to access essential services and facilities.

We advise our customers to stay at home rather than self-isolating aboard, unless your boat is your primary residence. This is so you do not put yourself at increased risk or place additional burden upon our facilities.

We will not provide ‘assisted passage’ (staff to operate locks) at any of our lock sites but locks will remain open for self-service use where possible. This will allow those living aboard their boats to reach essential services if they need to.

At the few locks where self-service is not possible, we will be reducing our normal level of service and our local teams will put special temporary operating arrangements in place to assist boats through in exceptional circumstances.

We will lift time restrictions on the short stay moorings we own or manage, to assist those who live aboard their boats so they can access essential services.

We will do the very best we can to keep open the essential facilities we provide (e.g. water supply, sewage pump-out and chemical toilet disposal), for those who need them. However our staff will not be able to offer the sale of keys, cards or tokens. These essential services will not include the provision of shower and toilet facilities.

Please contact us if they have further questions about the Environment Agency waterways.

Customer Contacts

During this pandemic the Environment Agency continues to protect people and the environment, working alongside our partners. Please report any pollution incidents on 0800 80 70 60 and stay #floodaware.

General enquiries

National Customer Contact Centre

PO Box 544 Rotherham S60 1BY United Kingdom

Email: enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk

Telephone: 03708 506 506

Telephone from outside the UK (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm GMT): +44 (0) 114 282 5312

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