The non-departmental body has shared incident management expertise and loaned a senior staff member to the national effort to combat the coronavirus crisis, confirms chair Emma Howard Boyd
The Environment Agency (EA) has published an update detailing how it is responding to the covid-19 pandemic and confirming that its most vital services can and will be sustained throughout the coronavirus crisis.
Industrial regulation, flood risk management and defence, and environmental incident response will be among the non-departmental body's top priority during the crisis, chair Emma Howard Boyd confirmed in an online update. "The Environment Agency is always focussed on protecting lives, livelihoods and the environment," Howard Boyd wrote. "Our commitment to this does not change while dealing with the effects of coronavirus, but we have to take into account the national situation."
She noted that staff continue to man the Thames Barrier and other essential sites, and testing is ongoing at the £120m Boston Barrier tidal flood defence in Lincolnshire. Meanwhile, environmental impact assessments, legal investigations, and the regulation of business, farmers, power stations, water and waste companies and hospitals are all continuing, even as many of the watchdog's staff embrace home working.
Moreover, the agency's remit as an environmental incident responder, which typically sees it preoccupied with floods, spills and other pollution events, now encompasses managing the impacts of coronavirus, for example, the safe disposal of clinical waste, added Howard Boyd.
And as a veteran in major incident management, the agency has had a role in the national response to the coronavirus outbreak, she said. "We are sharing our incident management expertise with others involved in the national response to coronavirus and have loaned one of our top experts in flood and incident management to the government's Office for Science," she explained.
The Environment Agency is also working with emergency services, local councils, and other partners in local resilience forums to coordinate support for the most vulnerable to the crisis. "One thing we know from experience of flood incidents is that during the recovery process we need partnership, compassion, determination and patience, as well as expertise," Howard Boyd concluded.
The update comes not long after the Environment Agency publicly defended its flood response efforts in an editorial in Febuary, amid reports of cuts to flood defence investment and criticism that the government was not going far enough to protect homeowners from extreme flooding events.
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