YORKSHIRE Water has vowed to clean up its act after environment chiefs slated its efforts to protect against pollution.

An Environment Agency report published today said Yorkshire was one of three major water and sewage companies in England which had demonstrated an "unacceptable level of performance" and merited only two stars.

It said a trend of gradual improvement in recent years had been reversed in 2018 and serious pollution incidents increased, causing damage to the rivers and wildlife.

Its figures showed that Yorkshire Water had 2.3 serious pollution incidents per 10,000 square kilometres - worse than any other company - and had a total of 44 pollution incidents per 10,000 square kilometres, the second worst record after Southern Water. The agency was unable to say where the incidents happened.

Executive director of operations Dr Toby Willison said: “Water companies need to clean up their act. People expect water companies to improve the environment, not pollute rivers and ensure secure supplies of water.”

Agency chair Emma Howard Boyd said it would continue to work with Ofwat to look at financial penalties to drive better environmental performance.

Yorkshire Water said an increase in the number of serious pollution incidents was the main cause of the fall in the company’s environmental performance assessment rating.

“This level of performance is absolutely not reflective of the company’s ambition to protect the environment and falls far short of the standards required to meet our aim to be recognised as an industry leader,” said a spokeswoman.

“When we saw our pollution performance begin to deteriorate during 2018 we introduced a number of measures to turn performance around.

“These measures have led to significantly better results and already we have seen a 36 per cent reduction in the number of pollution incidents in 2019 compared to the same period last year.”

She said the company had an ambitious plan for pollution reduction in 2019 which harnessed new technology to help predict and prevent incidents, which would see an additional £50.4 million spent.