Waters most foul

Barry White

As George Eustice the environment secretary announced at the end of last week that water companies would have to invest £56bn over 25 years in a long term programme to tackle storm sewage discharges, the Yorkshire Post (https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/environment/sewage-spilled-into-yorkshires-waterways-for-15-million-hours-over-last-six-years-figures-show-3821116) reported that sewage had been allowed into Yorkshire waterways for more than 1.5m hours over the last six years. Yorkshire Water recorded 1669,575 spillage incidents between 2016 and 2021 which equated to one incident every 18 minutes according to figures obtained by the Labour Party.

The report came just hours after the company introduced a hosepipe ban for 5.4m consumers. They have also been heavily criticised for it leakage record, losing 283.2 million litres every day in 2021/22. The Environment Agency said last month that the company’s environmental performance required “significant improvement”. It recorded 74 pollution incidents last year, of which five were deemed to be serious.

Meanwhile the government believes that new initiative announced by the environment secretary would be used to increase the capacity of the water companies to treat sewage before it’s discharged, to protect public health and prevent pollution, as well as reducing discharges. Failure to reduce discharges could see the companies facing substantial fines or having to return money to consumers. However, critics believe that such fines will end up by being put on consumers’ bills. Details of the government’s plans can be seen at: https://www.independent.co.uk/independentpremium/uk-news/sewage-pollution-water-companies-tories-b2154185.html or https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/aug/26/uk-government-sewage-spills-strategy-is-cruel-joke-say-critics

Yorkshire Water is ultimately owned (through a complex series of holding companies) by Kelda Holdings, which is incorporated in Jersey. In a statement they said that they were working hard to make improvements across the region.

Tonight at 7.30pm Channel 4’s Dispatches will be showing the scale of raw sewage being dumped in rivers and seas around the country.

Meanwhile water companies have come in for criticism for awarding their executives multimillion pound bonuses and large pay-outs to shareholders.

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