Environmental Damage Regulations

Page updated on: 04/09/2023

The Environmental Damage (Prevention and Remediation) Regulations 2009 (as amended) brought the requirements of the Environmental Liability Directive (Directive 2004/35/EC) into national law in England and Wales. They came into force on the 6th of May 2009 in Wales and placed obligations on many businesses to prevent, or put right, any environmental damage they are responsible for.
They are based on the ‘polluter pays principle’ so those responsible prevent and remedy environmental damage, rather than the taxpayer paying.
Preceding liability regimes in the UK still apply and where they impose additional obligations to those in these Regulations, they will still need to be complied with.
 ‘Environmental damage’ relates to:
  • Adverse effects on the integrity of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) or on the conservation status of species and habitats protected by EU legislation outside SSSIs
  • Adverse effects on surface water or groundwater consistent with a deterioration in the water’s status (Water Framework Directive term)
  • Contamination of land that results in a significant risk of adverse effects on human health
The Regulations are intended as a ‘backstop’, only applying where something has gone wrong and there is an imminent threat or actual ‘environmental damage’. 
By making sure that you already have appropriate pollution prevention measures to reduce risks to the environment in place, you can reduce the likelihood of ever being caught by the Regulations. An important first step is to comply with existing legislation, so that imminent threats and damage do not arise.

Insurance is not compulsory, but you should check your existing policies. Where necessary, consider extending them or taking out other financial guarantees to cover any potential liabilities for damage to the environment.

If you are the operator of an economic activity and this activity causes some damage or a risk of damage to the environment, you must take immediate action to prevent it from becoming worse. You must then notify the Enforcing Authority straight away - the enforcing authority are not responsible for the clean up. 
Failure to comply with the requirements of the Regulations may mean that you will be found to have committed an offence and penalties may apply.
If you are not sure whether environmental damage has occurred, you are advised to take the precautionary approach and take immediate action anyway and then inform the Enforcing Authority. They will be able to advise you on what needs to be done next.

The operator is the person, or company, who controls or is responsible for an activity. Some activities may have more than one operator.

This term covers a variety of activities, including businesses, public sector activities and many charitable activities. Purely domestic or recreational activities do not apply.

They are the bodies responsible for enforcing the regulations. In general terms they are:
  • Natural Resources Wales in relation to damage to water and/or habitats and species; 
  • Local Authorities in relation to land contamination where a risk to human health exists. 
If it is not possible to provide all details immediately, do not delay in contacting the relevant Enforcing Authority. Additional information can be provided later. If you are unsure which is the Enforcing Authority, please contact either Natural Resources Wales or Carmarthenshire County Council. 

Once the authority is aware of a potential case, it must establish if it is ‘environmental damage’, identify a responsible operator and oversee the effective operation of the Regulations.

If you are an operator, you must take immediate steps to prevent damage or further damage – do not wait until you have spoken to Natural Resources Wales or Carmarthenshire County Council.

If you wish to report potential Environmental Damage to the Council, or if you are concerned about environmental damage being caused by someone else, please contact us as soon as possible by emailing CEContactCentre@carmarthenshire.gov.uk / PublicProtection@carmarthenshire.gov.uk or calling 01267 234567. 

Likewise, if you would like to report an incident to Natural Resources Wales, please call 0300 065 3000 or refer to the following webpage Natural Resources Wales / Report an incident