Thames Water fined more than £3 million for polluting our rivers

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On Tuesday 4 July, Lewes Crown Court fined Thames Water £3.3m for polluting rivers. The company pleaded guilty to pumping millions of litres of undiluted sewage into rivers near Gatwick Airport in 2017.
Cathryn Ross, interim co-CEO of Thames Water, said:

We are deeply sorry for the entirely unacceptable pollution incident into the Gatwick Stream and River Mole six years ago. It should not have happened, and we deeply regret the incident.

Ross has replaced Sarah Bentley, who resigned as CEO on 27 June.

Empty promises

The UK’s private water companies have pledged to make investments to prevent our rivers being polluted (at bill payers’ expense), but they continue to pump extensive amounts of raw sewage into our rivers.

Thames Water was already fined a massive £20m back in March 2017 after it polluted the river Thames multiple times. Meanwhile, the Guardian recently reported that the number of leaking pipes managed by Thames Water is the highest it has been in five years. So, seemingly nothing has changed for Thames Water in the past six years.

Meanwhile, the BBC stated that the country’s water companies pumped raw sewage into rivers and seas 825 times a day on average in 2022. Companies released sewage for 1.75m hours throughout that year.

The public pays the cost

Not for the first time, Thames Water has announced that it will spend significant amounts of money to upgrade its infrastructure. However, campaigners are outraged that this cost will be passed onto consumers.

Water bills across the country could surge 40% by 2030 to fund infrastructure works. This news comes amid mounting concerns over water quality and laxer environmental protections post-Brexit.

Read on...

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Despite this, shareholders will continue to profit. The Guardian has reported that:

the nine main water and sewerage companies had paid out £65.9bn in dividends in the last three decades.

Plus, water company bosses continue to rake in the money through wages and extortionate bonuses, despite being completely incompetent at their jobs.


Thames Water could come under temporary renationalisation as it drowns in almost £14 billion worth of debt. But this isn’t the right solution: we need water companies to be permanently nationalised. The Canary’s Maryam Jameela hit the nail on the head when he said:

Thames Water is just the latest company that’s supposed to be offering a public service but has put profit over people. The government should be permanently bringing these greedy companies under public control. Don’t hold your breath though – unless you’re in sewage-infested waters.

As it scrambles to find £1 billion in equity, it remains to be seen whether Thames Water can salvage itself. It isn’t the only water company to be in substantial debt. Since Margaret Thatcher sold our water industry to private hands back in 1989, privatisation has been a disaster. A new buyer for Thames Water will not be any kind of solution. We need to renationalise our water companies now, for the public’s sake, and most of all, for the environment’s sake.

Featured image via Eliza Egret

Additional reporting by Agence France-Press

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