Sewage in our waters

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Video transcript

What a load of sh*t!

Last week, MPs voted down an amendment to the Environment Bill tabled in the House of Lords. The amendment called for a new duty on water companies to reduce the amount of sewage dumped into our rivers.

The issue centres on storm overflows in two different parts of the system. Older sewer systems combine surface water and ‘foul’ water from people’s homes. The water is then moved to a water recycling centre to be ‘treated’. This becomes an issue during heavy storms. In the event of a storm, excess water is released into rivers or the sea when the system becomes overwhelmed.

Over the course of 2020, raw sewage was dumped 400,000 times.

It’s important to note, that whilst the combined sewage system will sometimes dispose of unclean water into our seas to stop flooding on the streets, voting down a legal obligation for corporations to not pollute our rivers allows them to do as they please with no consequences.

It’s no surprise that England is ranked last on bathing water quality in Europe. According to the European environment information and observation network, 100% of Cyprus’s bathing water was deemed excellent, compared to us with 17.2%.

Read on...

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In 1991, the EU created the Urban Waste Water Directive that was designed to protect the water environment from urban waste water that is discharged from cities and the industrial sector.

Now that the UK has left the EU, there is no floor when it comes to regulation. In-fact, some rules have already been relaxed after The Environment Agency has announced that this will be the case on the regulations around discharging water.

In the last 10 years, dividends of £13.4bn have been paid out by private water companies. In the last year alone the top nine company directors have received an 8.8% pay increase.

The CEOs at Severn Trent were the highest paid with £2.4 million in salaries.

Scottish Water, which is publicly owned, is more equal with the highest paid director earning £366,000.

Astonishingly, since 1991 English water companies have paid dividends totaling £57bn. As CEO wages have grown, the water and sewage system has been neglected.

The water industry was privatised by Thatcher in 1989, with the government apparently writing off all the debts. However, analysis by Karol Yearwood shows 10 water companies had accrued a £51bn industry net debt balance as of 2018, which is close to the £57bn given to shareholders… Public debt is private gain.

In contrast, the publicly owned Scottish Water has invested 35% per household more than English private companies.

Whilst the borrowed money should have been spent on infrastructure and quality control, once again the shareholders enriched themselves, another classic result of privatisation. The easy solution, of course, is to make the companies pay and renationalise them.

With the UK playing host to the UN’s global climate summit in Glasgow, it’s high time Westminster got their house in order rather than literally allowing our environment to go to sh*t.

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