The Environment Agency is a “Non Departmental Government Body”. A bit of a mouthful, but basically it means we receive our funding via DEFRA and are Public Sector workers. We are in the Local Government Pension Scheme which has its own separate fund which is healthy enough.
The Environment Agency do enforce environmental legislation relating to water, land, air and waste, but this is the last resort and we much prefer to advise and guide businesses and members of the public. One of our most public roles is in Flood Defence, building and maintaining flood defences and warning households of imminent flooding. However, we also have members working in the background preventing pollution of the rivers and lakes by sewage, slurry and anything that might fall off the back of a lorry.
Yes we have a 24 hour response to assist the Fire and Rescue Service and Police at major Road Traffic Accidents and Fires. For the pollution that we don’t find we have teams monitoring the streams and lakes to check how clean they are both chemically and also how many fish and insects are living there.
Some issues specific to Cumbria that we get involved in are the Appleby Horse Fair, the Underground Radioactive Waste Store near Sellafield and, spending £6.1 million on building the Keswick Flood Risk Scheme. Cumbria provides much of the drinking water for Manchester and the Agency works closely with United Utilities (many of them Unison members) to balance the needs of water users and the environment, particularly in times of drought. The Environment Agency also provides funding for the Bassenthwaite and Windermere Reflections teams working on improving the quality of the Lakes.
UNISON is the majority union in the Agency, but there are also members of Prospect, Unite and GMB. We have a high density of members in Cumbria. Turnover is reduced here as people stay in the area and the job for a long time. UNISON members in Cumbria share the same sort of problems as members elsewhere, although perhaps we have more members who encounter difficulties if they can’t drive to work due to illness or hardship.
Public transport is unfortunately thin on the ground, we could get to London quicker on the train than some people could get to work on the bus.
Environment Agency members were on the picket line on 30 November. Though we were thinking no one could see us tucked away on a business park and then the BBC turned up and put us on the local news ! After that we went to the demonstration in Carlisle and met up with retired members to go on the march.
Sampling and Collection team sampling the water on the lake